The Eagle Composed by Atli Övarsson
Silva Screen Records (2011)
Soundclips below from AmazonMP3
similarities are certainly there, THE EAGLE doesn’t quite manage to
provide the same depth of quality found in ZIMMER’S score
[Gladiator]. Nonetheless, ÖRVARSSON manages to take inspiration from
his mentor and admirably provides his own spin and innovation on the
Has The Eagle Landed?
Review by Richard Buxton
Even after over a decade it is impossible to judge films remotely resembling
‘Swords and Sandals’ genre without comparing it to the epic that is GLADIATOR.
Credited with reviving a whole genre by itself, it is the benchmark that all
others measure themselves by and provides an instant uphill struggle to achieve
any recognition beyond that of a “Gladiator wannabe”.
The general consensus is that THE EAGLE fails in any attempt to live up to the
memory of such a fondly remembered milestone. Yet, under continued guidance from
HANS ZIMMER, Icelandic composer ATLI ÖRVARSSON surely has a chance to emulate
any success ZIMMER’S Academy Award nominated score. While the similarities are
certainly there, THE EAGLE doesn’t quite manage to provide the same depth of
quality found in ZIMMER’S score. Nonetheless, ÖRVARSSON manages to take
inspiration from his mentor and admirably provides his own spin and innovation
on the project.
As an adaptation of ROSEMARY SUTCLIFFE’S novel THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH, director
KEVIN MACDONALD brings the tale of a Roman soldier and his quest to retrieve the
lost emblem of his father’s lost legion. The setting alone conjures vivid
memories of the genre’s golden age and the numerous classic scores it has
produced. Such history would suggest that films depicting the era of the Roman
Empire provide a wealth of golden material and inspiration from which composers
can feed. In terms of the blossoming career of ATLI ÖRVARSSON, this trend holds
true. Having scored a number of worldwide releases, ÖRVARSSON’S work on THE
EAGLE marks what is arguably his strongest effort in film scoring thus far.
The score introduces itself with the brooding “Testudo” (1), a heavily
percussive piece strongly reminiscent of the more action-oriented compositions
heard in GLADIATOR. A strong but ultimately predictable opening sets up the
similarly evocative “Highlands” (2). The string harmonies dominated opening is
swiftly replaced by the moody and atmospheric vocals that again bring ZIMMER’S
score to mind. It is in this track however, that ÖRVARSSON’S provides the
slightest reveal of the scores unique selling point. Slight hints of a Celtic
influence appear throughout the opening moments of the track and these are fully
reinforced in the following track, “The Return of the Eagle” (3). The influences
can be heard instantly, providing an energetic and refreshing rhythm as the
various instruments, including bagpipes come to the fore. The string and bagpipe
motif alone might give some listeners the urge to take up dance lessons, but the
swift emergence of the string section accompaniment enhances the cinematic
flavour with it’s rising pattern, giving the track a pleasant and uplifting
nature and cementing itself as one of the highlights of the score.
The first instance of what presents itself as a theme can be heard in “The Ninth
Legion” (4), an ominous piece accented by a male choir that rises into a
sweeping string theme. The theme reappears occasionally throughout the score in
the tracks “I Will Return” (12) and “Beyond The Territories” (18), with both
providing their own unique take on the theme, the former in the aforementioned
Celtic demeanour. It is in these tracks that THE EAGLE finds its identity,
rather than the less subtle and more dramatic action pieces. “May Your Souls
Takes Flight” embodies this spirit as the bagpipes signal a rousing,
When ÖRVARSSON does venture into the action sequences of the film, the music
does take a step down into the predictable. The music is suitably invigorating,
but offers little more than has been heard countless times in similar films over
the years. Tracks such as “North of the Wall” (5) emphasize this in their
predictably percussive roots. The Celtic elements do provide reason for
listeners to give the tracks more attention than they otherwise might however.
The climactic moments of “Fleeing The Village” (15) are of a pleasingly fresh
disposition and provide incentive for repeat listens.
Outside the previously mentioned tracks, THE EAGLE provides extensive underscore
in the likes of “The Seal People” (9), “Searching” (10) and “Eagle Lost, Honour
Lost” (14), all of which are fittingly atmospheric but are unlikely to be the
catalyst for audiences to return to the score on multiple occasions.
ATLI ÖRVARSSON succeeds in THE EAGLE where he may have easily failed. He has
provided a largely exciting and stirring backdrop for the film, without
succumbing to the temptation of lifting entire ideas from scores that may have
been particularly inspirational. The choice to flavour the score with a Celtic
seasoning does wonders for the overall texture of the score, providing the
listener with a unique reason to return beyond a first-listen. ÖRVARSSON is
showing a continuously growing maturity in each score he produces, and THE EAGLE
suggests there is a lot more to come from this promising composer.