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Blu-ray Review: The Eagle (2011)

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Written by Pirata Hermosa

The Eagle takes place in 140 A.D. in Roman-occupied Britain. All but the northern part has been conquered. Twenty years have passed since the Ninth Legion entered the wilderness to defeat the wild barbarians. The legion never returned, all men were presumed dead and more importantly the eagle standard that represented them and the Roman Empire was lost.

Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum) is the son of the commander of the Ninth Legion. He has recently been appointed commander of a garrison in Britain. He hopes to restore the honor to his family by becoming a war hero and maybe even one day returning the standard of the Ninth Legion to Rome. His dreams are quickly destroyed as he finds himself receiving an honorable discharge after he is seriously injured in a battle against the barbarians that instigate a sneak attack against his garrison.

As he slowly recovers under the tutelage of his uncle (Donald Sutherland), he begins to dread the life he will lead, no longer being able to soldier. While watching a gladiatorial match against a well-armed gladiator and a barely armed slave named Esca (Jamie Bell), Marcus finds the young man to be noble and brave and decides to spare his life.

Noticing his fondness for the young man, Marcus’ uncle purchases Esca to be his personal slave. Confessing his hatred for all Romans, the slave gives his word that he will repay Marcus for saving his life. This comes in handy when Marcus discovers that The Eagle has been seen in the far north of Britain. Seeing his one chance at restoring his family name, he vows to set forth through Hadrian’s Wall and into the unprotected Highlands of Caledonia. Esca will be his guide through the barbarian lands since he used to be one before he was a slave.

The two men set off on a quest that will ultimately take them to the edges of the known world where they must face the fiercest of all warriors, the Seal People. But along the way they will discover what truly happened to the Ninth Legion and have their relationship of slave and master reversed.

Overall the film is quite entertaining. It’s a different twist on the Epic Quest and manages to have several intense battles without being overly gory. The scene where Marcus must command his troops to build a shield wall in order to rescue the patrol is a very accurate and amazing display of the strength and power of the Roman military.

The main weakness of the film is the lack of character development between the two main characters. Even though Marcus saved Esca’s life, there needed to be more personal interaction between the two. By the end of the story, the two have become friends, but many of the steps that took them to that place were nowhere to be found. And ultimately it makes what could have been a really good film just above average.

The Blu-ray disc is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.35:1 with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Warm colors and strong shadows are main elements of the film’s look.  Clarity is sharp, revealing a lot of detail and texture. Grain and crush are infrequenty pervasive. The soundtrack offers an immersive experience. All the elements (dialogue, music, effects) are individually well rendered and the mix of them strikes the right balance. There are two versions, theatrical and unrated, on the disc, and a digital copy is available. Bonus Features include a commentary by director Kevin Macdonald and three others.

The “Alternate Ending” shows Marcus placing The Eagle in the funeral pyre for the men of the Ninth while giving a speech at how it belongs to the men and not Rome. Thankfully, this was not the ending they went with because it would have been so out of character after everything the two men went through to retrieve it.

Two “Deleted Scenes” were edited out of the film. Neither added anything and were good choices for removal. The first scene involves Marcus challenging a local Britain man to a chariot race. It’s a frivolous scene that had nothing to do with the story and would have been a waste of time. The second scene is an altered version of the pig gutting scene with Esca giving an account of his family history. It’s just an average scene and lacked the emotion and intensity of the scene that was left in the film when Esca confronts Marcus about his enslavement and the death of his people.

The Eagle: The Making of a Roman Epic” follows the cast and crew as they go through the steps of choosing the locations, creating the sets and choreographing the fight scenes.

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