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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Eagle

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jamie Bell and Channing Tatum star in "The Eagle."
The contradictions of imperialism and the relationship of a marginal culture to a temporarily dominant one are background themes that add some depth to the period action-adventure movie "The Eagle" (Focus).

Even so, adults and mature teens who approach this vigorous screen version of Rosemary Sutcliff's popular 1954 novel "The Eagle of the Ninth" looking for nothing more than a swords-and-sandals outing—or a toga-toting buddy movie—will likely come away satisfied as well.

Taking that outing and making for an unlikely pair of pals are Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum), a young Roman soldier stationed in second-century Britain, and his native slave, Esca (Jamie Bell). Together they embark on a quest to recover the titular military symbol lost 20 years earlier when the legion Marcus' father, Flavius, commanded disappeared, under unexplained circumstances, in the wilds of modern-day Scotland.

Tormented since childhood by Flavius' ambiguous legacy—did Dad fight to the end or show cowardice by abandoning this gilded emblem of Rome's honor?—Marcus hopes to restore both national and familial pride by returning the totem to imperial custody.

But to achieve this, he will have to journey beyond Hadrian's Wall, the northern limit of the Empire, an undertaking considered impossibly reckless by the cautious uncle (Donald Sutherland) at whose villa Marcus has been recuperating from the battle wounds that put an end to his active military career.

In fact, once he enters this alien world populated by hostile Britons, Marcus will be wholly dependent on Esca as interpreter and guide. Yet, Esca himself is unsure of his loyalties.

As the enslaved son of a local chieftain killed by the occupier, Esca detests Rome and everything it represents. But his first encounter with his master ended with Marcus saving the lad's life, an act Esca —no stranger to the concept of honor himself -- feels duty-bound to repay with faithful service.

Their arduous journey sees the fraught relationship between these representatives of competing civilizations veer from friendship to hostility to mutual understanding, and displays the moral shadings present in both their communities.

Director Kevin Macdonald keeps the pace lively and the battles mostly gore-free while a sense of conflict-transcending human solidarity helps leaven the macho atmosphere that permeates Jeremy Brock's screenplay. (Not only is there no "love angle" in the story, there's nary a female character to be seen.)

Despite the elements listed below, the moral lessons awaiting attentive viewers of this historical expedition make it probably acceptable for older adolescents.

The film contains considerable but largely bloodless combat violence, brief distant images of unclothed corpses, a single use of the S-word and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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