Saturday, 25 February 2012

The Eagle

The first The Eagle offers another view of the Ninth, the Roman Legion which disappeared in Northern Britain in the second century AD, The general view is that it was probably defeated in Scotland and that the remnants took wives and became local.

In the film the Centurion son of the commanding officer of the Ninth has volunteered to take charge of a northern fort which has become complacent. He ensures that the defences are up dated and rouses the men quietly when he accurately predicts a night time attack. The combination of these two decisions is that although there are some casualties these are only a small compared to what could have happened.

A patrol has been captured and are being systematically put to death. The young man leads an assault to rescue the survivors and bring back the bodies killing the chief but being badly injured himself. He is acclaimed but retired with honour and is taken to recover with a relative at Silchester in Southern England.

There his uncle entertains some Roman friends including a young politician/diplomat who is scathing about the father and the loss of the Ninth and its Eagle. There are rumours that the Eagle, their symbol of Rome and their honour has been seen flaunted north of Hadrian’s Wall designed to protect Roman Britain from the northern tribes.

The uncle has given Marcus Flavius Aquila a young slave, someone who Marcus insisted should not be ritually slaughtered after refusing to fight in the arena and is badly knocked about. This is Esca the son of the Brigantes Chief whose father killed his mother to prevent her being made into a sex slave for the Roman troops before he himself was slain. Esca feels indebted to the particular Roman but this has not affected his general hatred of the way the Romans have behaved towards the indigenous people.

Marcus takes Esca North, through the Hadrian’s Wall gateway to the wasteland of Northumberland and Scotland where they are advised to go over the mountains to the Forests where a former Roman soldier lives. He now has a wife and family as others who survived and he explains that the Eagle was capture by the Seal People and race of warriors and hunters with the stamina to track down those trying to escape horseback.

Encountering these people Esca convincingly pretends that Marcus is his slave, to an extent that Marcus begins to believe he has turned on him. However at a drunken festival initiation ceremony for young men to be recognised as adult warriors the Eagle is paraded and in the middle of the night Esca arouses Marcus to go and take the Eagle and then take flight. They are helped by a young boy who allows then depart without raising the alarm.

After a great trek they reach the remnants of the Ninth who decide to stand and fight against the advancing horde of the Seal People. They witness the boy who helped them being executed and the majority of the remnant are killed in the battle but they win out and return to Silchester to present the visiting Romans the Eagle. Having retrieved the honour of the family Marcus is declared a hero and reinstated in the army while Esca is given his freedom and the two leave for further adventuring together. The film is based on a 1950’s novel. Given the proposition that Scottish Independence should be put to the vote before next General Election in Scotland the scenario of the border country comparatively few miles from where I live, could again become the land for the smuggling of goods and people

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