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IN SHORT: The strangest twist on a buddy picture we've ever seen... [Rated PG-13 for Battle Sequences and Some Disturbing Images. 114 minutes.]
Every continent spanning empire sooner-or-later meets one great defeat. The empire at the middle of The Eagle is Roman. The great defeat is the loss of their Ninth Legion; led by Flavius Aquila, five thousand men vanished into the mists of Caledonia (we call it Scotland) in the distant land of the Britons, circa 120AD. The emperor Hadrian declared said lands to be the end of the earth and built a wall to keep the barbarians on the other side out.
Twenty years on the son of Flavius, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) requests an assignment to command a fortress on the Caledonian border. To the disgraced Aquila, is a matter of family honor to tame and hold the distant frontier and, if possible, discover what happened to the Legion and find and recover the golden eagle that served as its standard. [simply put, a big gold eagle on a tall pole, usually with a banner identifying the army hanging down and fluttering in the wind].
Marcus' first battle against the barbarians didn't go down in history. His men took a whipping and only a well placed spear thrown by the new commander saves the day. The trade off is one whopper of an injury which puts the young 'un in the care of his aging uncle (Donald Sutherland). Taken to the local version of a colosseum for the usual Games, Marcus stands agains a crowd willing to see a captured Briton put to death. Inspired, uncle buys the slave - his name is Esca (Jamie Bell) -- for the personal use of his nephew and the "buddy" part of the film is properly set up.
Of course, one buddy would be very happy to slit the neck of the other in the middle of the night, given the chance. But in a house full of prominent Romans, you do as you're told and hold massa down while surgeons dig spear tips out of his legs. Besides, the injured centurion saved Esca's life and Esca, in turn, owes a debt of honor to his new owner. As for the Roman Legion? They boot the injured hero out with an honorable discharge. Nineteen hundred years ago was a pretty different world, dear readers.
When rumors cross the Wall that the eagle standard of the Ninth has been seen in the barbarian lands, Marcus and Esca pass through the wall in search of the eagle standard. For Marcus it is a matter of family pride. But, on the other side of the wall, the only one of the pair that speaks the native language is not the guy with the disgraced Roman family name. When our heroic pair of travelers encounters the Seal People -- the designated bad guys -- guess who quickly becomes top dog?Marcus is bound up with other slaves in the camp of the Seal People, while Esca is treated as an honored guest. Hospitality not having changed in a millenia plus, everyone drinks whatever it is they drank in those days to get blotto and, while blotto, Esca retrieves Marcus and they seek out the Eagle.
Remember, until now Esca hates Marcus but owes a life debt. Marcus' only protection amidst the Seal People is Esca claim that the Roman is his slave. Once the Eagle is "liberated," and the theft discovered, you've got perhaps one of the earliest accounts of "you and me against the world."
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Eagle, he would have paid . . .
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