"The Eagle" is a rip-snorting adventure tale of the sort made before CGI, 3-D and alphabet soup in general took the fun out of moviegoing. So much does it evoke the energy of traditional sword-and-shield movies that I had to bring the term "rip-snorting" out of retirement; it's rarely needed in this era of sleek technology. Here we see for the most part the actual actors trekking through real locations, instead of quasi-animation.
The story is one I dimly recall, about the disappearance of the Roman Ninth Legion, which marched north from the colony of England into the unknown wilds of Scotland and was never heard from again. It tells of an uneasy bond between a centurion named Marcus (Channing Tatum) and a slave named Esca (Jamie Bell), who join on a mission to discover what happened to the Ninth Legion and its proud symbol, a golden eagle.
Some Americans find it quaint that the Scots and Welsh don't think of themselves as English. A Yank can receive the occasional fat lip for that mistake. Scotland was an independent kingdom until well over a millennium after the time of this story, which is set in about 140 A.D. So fearsome were the Scots warriors that the Roman Emperor Hadrian threw up his hands and decreed that a border wall be erected in his name, whether to keep the Scots out or administer a full body pat-down, I am not sure.
In "The Eagle," Marcus is assigned to lead a minor Roman outpost in England some 20 years after the death of his father, who is still blamed for having lost the Eagle. Seriously wounded, he returns to Italy, as it was not then known, to heal at the villa of his Uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland). Attending a deadly fight of gladiators, he decrees that the life of the courageous slave Esca be spared and takes him along when he returns to England and takes up a more important command.