The shame was unspeakably great. The honour of family and of Rome -disgraced. When Marcus Aquila's father and his Ninth Legion of 5,000 men marched into the wild, fierce lands of Briton, they were never seen again and the prized standard of Rome, The Eagle, was lost.
Now, twenty years later, Marcus is on a mission: find The Eagle and get it back to Rome, whatever it takes. His plan? Travel into Briton with only a slave for company and only his sword for protection.
However, Marcus' plan makes sense: 'Two men could go where an army could not,' he explains to his doubting uncle. 'Why would they even have to know we were there?'
A soldier himself, Marcus is stationed at a small fort, where he saves the men from a barbarian attack during the night. Their patrol is captured by the wild men, however, and one of them is beheaded before Marcus, who then takes his men and bravely retrieves the endangered patrol. He is badly wounded, however, and recieves a medal of honour and an honourable discharge from the army. At a loss as to what to do with himself now, he spends his time with his uncle, his father's brother, who takes him to some gladitorial games. Here we meet Esca. A Briton slave, Esca is pitted against an armoured gladiator, while he himself has no armour. He refuses to fight, which causes the audience to boo and encourage the gladiator to kill him. But Marcus, unable to watch someone be slaughtered, convinces the audience to spare Esca. Marcus' uncle later purchases Esca and gives him to Marcus as a slave. Esca, albeit reluctantly, vows to protect Marcus and repay his debt to Marcus for having saved Esca's life at the games.
Friends of the uncle's come to visit, and when the conversation turns to the lost Eagle of the Ninth, Marcus hatches the wild plan to go and retrieve it from Briton. His uncle is doubtful, but Marcus believes that with Esca's help, he will be able to get back the honour of his family and of Rome.
But once they get into Briton, things quickly begin to go wrong. First of all, Marcus has to rely on Esca to speak to everyone they meet, as Esca knows Gaelic and Marcus does not, which leaves him in a potentially vulnerable position. Then they are attacked by rogue warriors and are nearly killed. They meet a deserter from the Ninth Legion, the troop that Marcus' father led twenty years ago, who reveals that Esca's tribe, the Brigantes, fought alongside the fierce Seal People to kill the Roman soldiers of the Ninth - including Marcus' father. Which, needless to say, causes some tension between Esca and Marcus!
They travel on, as Marcus is still as determined as ever to find The Eagle, which he belives the Seal People stole from the Ninth Legion as a war prize. But as Marcus begins to accuse Esca of lying to him and betraying his friendship - since Esca explains that his people see the victory over the Ninth as a great one - they start to fight, enraged with each other. However, their fight stops short when they tumble in front of a tall, blue-painted man who reminds one of the Pandorans in Avatar. The man and his fellow soldiers have Esca and Marcus surrounded, and he demands their names. Esca tells him who is he - the son of the slain chief of the Brigantes - and the man responds kindly, seeing a Brigante as a friend. When asked about Marcus, however, Esca tells the man that Marcus is his slave. The Seal People don't like Romans, even slaves, so Marcus is tied behind a horse and dragged along behind them as they journey back to their village, Esca being treated as an honoured guest. Long story short, Esca and Marcus manage to filch The Eagle from a cave where the Seal People store it, making their escape as the warriors sleep, drunk from a manhood celebration ceremony. They ride hard for the border, but the Seal People are incredibly fast runners - almost unrealistically fast - and they catch up to Esca and Marcus - who are on horseback! - within a day or two. Esca and Marcus stick to the river in order to keep the Seal People's dogs from finding them, but Marcus is wounded and cannot go on. Esca takes off then, making the audience wonder if he's intending to come back.
Just as the Seal People close in on Marcus, Esca returns, however, with twenty or thirty deserters from the Ninth Legion, ready to defend The Eagle and Marcus, the son of their former commander.
A battle ensues, and The Eagle is safe, as are Esca and Marcus. The Eagle is returned to Rome, and its and Marcus' family's honour is restored. Esca is free now, no longer Marcus' slave but still his friend. And they all live happily ever after.
This was a fantastic movie. It combined the glory and violence of great movies such as Braveheart and Lord of the Rings, and it taught a subtle but noticeable lesson of humility on Marcus' part, who was forced to rely on his slave for everything, whereas he had been used to ordering Esca around and having the 'Roman right' to do whatever he pleased, when he pleased. Esca shows great faithfulness and honour by protecting Marcus when the Seal People express their disdain of him, and he goes to great lengths to help Marcus when he is unable to continue later on. Esca is a true hero and a good friend to Marcus.
This story is one full of 'old-fashioned' themes and values, such as honour for one's family and country, courage and bravery, and never deserting a friend. A movie like this beats out many of the ones I've seen recently; why can't more movies in the box office be like this? It had no sex scenes or scantily clad people, which was incredibly relieving, and while it was violent, it was realistic and accurately portrayed the Roman and Briton style of fighting. Marcus even has enough decency to honour the fallen Seal People along with the Romans after the final battle, which is very good to see in a hero, for it truly shows his quality. The 'villains' were refreshingly believable, as they weren't simply evil; they had a believable reason for pursuing Esca and Marcus after The Eagle was taken from them: it was their sacred emblem, and they wanted it back! They had just as much sense of bravery and the importance of honour as the Romans, even if theirs was tainted a little by unnecessary violence (the son of the chief kills his own young son for aiding Marcus and Esca in escaping). However, you could see the pain on the face of the father as he killed his son, which made you feel sorry for him, since you could see that he didn't want to do it, but felt he had to in order to make an example to his people. Great way of garnering emotional sympathy!
There were a few uses of language: one use each of s---hole, d---, a--, and bloody. Two uses of p---. Turn on TV Guardian if you have it!
I happily give this movie 5 stars out of 5, and I would heartily recommed it to families who have children 15 and up (best to keep the little ones away from the violence and language).