The Eagle

The Eagle (2011)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell, Donald Sutherland
Extras: Commentary Track, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending, Featurette, Digital Copy

It went mostly unnoticed in theaters, presumable because the lack of big star power and a largely unfamiliar director simply made it very hard for the studio to get people into theater seats. It is too, bad, really, because "The Eagle" is a quite wonderful film that deserves to be seen. Fortunately for all of us, it is now available on Blu-Ray from Universal Home Entertainment.

When the Emperor Hadrian sent a legion of 5,000 men into the northern parts of unapeaced Britain in 120 AD, all 5,000 soldiers disappeared, presumably killed by the warrior tribes of the North. With them disappeared their standard, a golden eagle, the symbol of Rome's power.

20 years later, young Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) is determined to find out what happened to the Ninth Legion, the Golden Eagle and most importantly his father, who lead the soldiers into the battle. He takes a command post in a garrison on the border to the wild north and tries to find a way to restore his family honor and return the Eagle to Rome.

Soon after being posted, the garrison is attacked and in an act of incredible valor, Aquila manages to save his men. He is discharge honorably from the army and once more, his desire to restore his family honor seems unattainable. That is, until one day, he decides to set out into the untamed North on his own, accompanied only by his slave Esca (Jamie Bell), a young man who speaks the Gaelic tongue of the locals.

When I first inserted "The Eagle" into my player I expected a Roman spectacle, with many battles, huge crowd scenes, gladiator fights, glorious views of Rome, and such. I could not have been more wrong, because as it turned out, "The Eagle" is a very intimate character film that replaces Roman architecture with the breathtaking vistas of the Scottish Highlands. While there are battle and a gladiator scene, you never have the sense of the bombast that other movies typically generate. Instead, you have a film that is very deliberate in focusing on one man's personal quest.

In addition to the hauntingly beautiful landscape shots, the film also sheds a remarkable light onto the cultures of the British north. Many viewers will be surprised by seeing how tribal the inhabitants of these lands used to be. Unlike the settled city dwellers, these tribes lived off the lands, sparse as it was, and off what the ocean surrounding them had to offer.

Presented in a 1080p high definition, the movie offers a pristine look, free of blemishes or defects, without any noise or grain. The level of definition in the transfer is meticulous, rendering images that are incredibly sharp and detailed. The transfer's solid black levels make sure shadows are reproduced perfectly, giving the image remarkable depth at all times. Add to it the balanced highlights and the faithful colors, and you have a presentation that makes the best of the movie.

A DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track complements the movie. The track is aggressive and makes constant use of the discrete surround channels. Despite it being character driven, there is a lot going on a times, as crowd and furious battle scenes take one end of the spectrum while quiet scenes with incredibly ambient sound effects make up the other. Dialogues are well integrated, making this a fully balanced and active audio presentation.

The Blu-Ray Disc features both the theatrical and an extended cut of the film. In addition you will find an alternate ending and a selection of deleted scenes on the disc.

A making-of documentary is also included, as well as a commentary track featuring director Kevin Macdonald. Macdonald, who also directed acclaimed movies such as "The Last King of Scotland" might not be a household name, but he has proven that he has a hand for character-oriented movies that also offer strong dynamics and action. I am sure we will hear more from this talented man in years to come, and I am certainly looking forward to it.

A Digital Copy is also included, along with BD Live and pocketBlu features.

"The Eagle" surprised me. It was not the film I expected. It was actually better. Filled with great imagery, a fascinating storyline and character dynamics that will keep viewers intrigued, this movie gets everything right and definitely deserves to be seen. Check it out when you have the chance.