The Eagle

Composed by: Atli Örvarsson

Distributed by: Silva Screen Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            In The Eagle, a movie adapted from the historical adventure novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliffe, Channing Tatum is Marcus Flavius Aquila, a Roman centurion following in his father’s footsteps.  His father was the last man to carry the eagle standard of the Ninth Legion, an army that mysteriously disappeared in the north of Britain.  Unfortunately, Marcus nearly loses his life and his entire garrison fighting Celtic tribesmen.  His injuries lead to a discharge from the military.  In an effort to save the family name, Marcus sets out to recover the eagle standard, rumored to be located in an area of Britain that no Roman has ever returned from.  Will his voyage be successful, or will he, like his father, become one of the lost?

            The music of The Eagle was created by Icelandic composer Atli Örvarsson, a man whose famous musical family pretty much ensured that he, too, would have some involvement in the music industry.  By the age of twenty, Atli Örvarsson was already performing and writing for some of Iceland’s top jazz and pop ensembles.  Moving to the United States after receiving an invitation to attend the Berklee College of Music, Atli Örvarsson went on to receive a Masters in film music composition.  He joined Remote Control Productions, a Hans Zimmer state-of-the-art musical think tank in 2006, working on numerous musical scores with the man such as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Angels & Demons and The Holiday.  Recent movie scores from Örvarsson include Season of the Witch, The Code, Vantage Point and Babylon A.D.

            Director Kevin Macdonald was looking for music with an authentic feel; something that made what was going on in the film feel realistic.  For Atli Örvarsson, this posed an interesting dilemma: “Which leads to the question, where does one start writing music that is real and true to a film about a Roman soldier and his slave who enter into Scotland in the year 140AD?  I must admit, it was a daunting task at first…”  Despite the perceived difficulties, Örvarsson proved more than up to the task. 

            As I listened to The Eagle Soundtrack, I knew that I was about to hear an album like no other.  The opening track starts off softly with a violin rich beauty that eventually turns a tad martial.  By then, we know that there will be action in this film as we hear the heavy percussions and the militaristic shout of an army on the march.  As things move forward, we hear more and more ethnic sounds.  Being someone who truly enjoys when a composer employs instruments of a time or region, I actually began smiling as I heard the Celtic Harp and small pipes and actually marveled out loud upon hearing the Uilleann Bagpipes.  When was the last time you heard bagpipes in a soundtrack for an action film?  Those weren’t the only exotic and regional instruments used to add an authentic sound to the film.  There were ancient horns and whistles found in the Edinburg church, carnyx, alpenhorn, bodhram, cimbalom, kamancheh, rojok, kaluka, ram’s horn, dulcimers and more.

            Örvarsson wove all of these sounds into a musical score that helped tell the story of The Eagle.  The sad but beautiful violin solos spoke to Aquila’s sadness and feelings of failure.  The Celtic music brought the battle between Aquila’s garrison and the Celtic tribesmen to life.  The bagpipes reminded us of the land they are traveling through.  The variety of horn sounds helped add to the mystery of the film as the former centurion and his followers enter the land of the unknown and encounter its residents.  The percussion coupled with fast-paced music played in rising crescendos lets us know that the action is upon us and we have joined the battle…or maybe a fight for survival.

            I really was not prepared to enjoy The Eagle Soundtrack as much as I did, but Atli Örvarsson did an amazing job in providing Kevin Macdonald with an authentic sounding musical score that would enhance the movie going experience.  In fact, the previews of this film had initially only sparked a spare interest in seeing it.  Now that I have heard the musical score, I can’t wait to check it out.  But The Eagle Soundtrack is not just a musical score that goes well with the film it was created for.  This soundtrack makes a terrific stand alone album for anyone who has any appreciation of unique and beautiful musical composition.  A win-win situation whatever way you look at it.


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