The Eagle Movie Poster Image

The Eagle

Roman action epic comes across as grim, violent, and dull.
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Action/Adventure
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although the heroes take on an "impossible" mission, bravely standing up against the odds (and, in the process, restoring a son's faith in his father), the results of the mission bring back a symbol of one country's dominance over another -- and to accomplish these goals, the heroes must engage in all kinds of violence.

Positive role models

Marcus fights for his father's honor and stands up against a crowd to rescue a slave. He and the slave become friends, despite the fact that they're from opposite sides of the war. Marcus is a violent hero, but he learns something about the terrible nature of war over the course of the film, and ultimately it appears that he's on the right track.


Several battles and lots of fighting, with swords, blades, and bows and arrows, and some blood on view. People are burned and beheaded (off screen); viewers do see a severed head. Characters are also strangled, beaten, and severely injured. Viewers see hanged corpses, and a character guts a wild boar. Characters tell stories of battles and killings, and the remains of a "killing field" littered with skulls and skeletons are shown. The heroes kill, skin, and eat a raw rat. A grown man smacks a young boy across the face.

Not applicable

Language includes infrequent use of "fart," "pissing," "s--t," "damn," and "ass."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The main character asks for wine before enduring a painful operation on his leg. Minor characters pass around what appears to be an alcoholic, hallucinogenic drink.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this honor-and-freedom-themed historical action/drama set during Rome's occupation of Southern Britain has lots of fighting and violence. There are battles with swords, blades, and bows and arrows, as well as some blood, strangling, a severed head, and dead animals. Characters tell stories of bloody, exhausting battles, and a man smacks a young boy across the face. Language is minor (words include "ass," "fart," and "pissing"), and there's a little drinking -- but no sexual content. Although characters begin to doubt the need for war, that doesn't stop their penchant for violence.

What's the story?

In 140 A.D., during the Roman occupation of Southern Britain, soldier Marcus (Channing Tatum) lives in the shadow of his disgraced father, who disappeared along with his entire legion many years earlier. In doing so, Marcus' father lost the "Eagle" of the title, a symbol for Roman glory. After being heroically wounded in battle, Marcus recuperates with his uncle (Donald Sutherland) and rescues a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), from a deadly battle. Unable to live with disgrace any longer, Marcus decides to take Esca and journey into enemy territory to find the fabled Eagle, thereby restoring his father's good name and setting things right. What Marcus doesn't realize is that the journey will teach him more than he ever could have realized.

Is it any good?


The movie has a heavy, gray look, and it's mostly humorless. It delves into the battles with grim resolve (and choppy editing), and it's not clear whether the violence is supposed to be fun or cautionary (if it's the latter, then there's an awful lot of it, and it's tiresome). Fortunately, in his small role, Sutherland strikes a nice, cheerful tone that -- in larger doses -- might have made the movie more fun.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin Macdonald (One Day in September) has had mixed results with his fiction movies (The Last King of Scotland, State of Play), and his rather impersonal approach doesn't suit this stodgy historical action movie. It takes a while to get going, and then its promising idea -- the "road trip" with the two enemies-turned-friends -- doesn't pay off. The film fails to really narrow its focus on these two, instead pondering larger issues, such as honor, glory, war, and freedom. The humans get lost in the shuffle.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. Is it essential to the story? Why or why not? How does it compare to what you'd see in a horror movie?

  • What does the Eagle of the movie's title represent? Is it a good symbol or a bad one?

  • What does the hero, Marcus, learn over the course of his journey? Is he a positive role model?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 11, 2011
DVD/Streaming release date:June 21, 2011
Cast:Channing Tatum, Donald Sutherland, Jamie Bell
Director:Kevin Macdonald
Studio:Focus Features
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:battle sequences and some disturbing images

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Parent of a 13 year old Written bySalvakiya April 23, 2014

Decent action though morbid.

This movie had some great action segments but it does show people being executed more than once. In one instance you see a man get decapitated from a distance. In another instance a child's throat is slit. The movie did the action segments well but the overall story seemed to drag on in places where it should not. It has a few good messages within it but the movie as a whole has something missing from it and I cannot put my finger on it. This movie would be inappropriate for children 13 and under for sure.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent of a 6 and 10 year old Written byGalefamily February 12, 2011
Read the book as a child, so I was looking forward to the movie. Took my wife to see it on opening night. She hated it. Very dark movie. Lots of very strong violence. Disturbing scene where a child is deliberately killed. Almost nothing positive about the movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent Written bytoddandleah September 6, 2013

What the Reviewer Missed

Once again Hollywood takes a wonderful story and mutilates it almost beyond recognition. This version has taken considerable liberties with the book "Eagle of the Ninth" by Rosemary Sutcliff. It's bad enough that Marcos is constantly egging Esca on to kill various people, but the reviewer failed to mention two scenes in particular. One where in an ambush, Marcus flings a dagger into the back of a young warrior, and even though he realizes he is only a boy, proceeds to slit his throat (off camera). And the other, in the final battle scene a father cuts the throat of his own son (a young boy, not more than 8!). Though no blood is seen, yet the mental filling in of the scene is impossible to shake. Furthermore, the murder in no way contributed to the plot - just gratuitous violence. Do yourself a favor, and don't put these images into the minds of your kids. I'm so relieved I chose to preview it. It's been two days and I can't get the look of that small boy's face out of my mind. Read the book - it will be everything this movie promised and failed to deliver. Danger, Quest, Bravery, Friendship, Reconciliation, Loyalty...
What other families should know
Too much violence