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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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