Eagle's Wing (1979) Poster


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mefolkes3 February 2008
The other commenters have written interesting things, indeed. The start of the movie had a reference to it being set in 1830. That is not "post-Civil War". It is thirty years before it. The setting is even a decade and a half before the Mexican-American War, thus being prior to the U.S. conquering what is now the southwestern United States and seizing it from the Mexicans. Pike was not a "cowboy", but rather a fur trapper, and it was the Indians who stole their pack horses and gear who killed his partner, with an arrow. Pike did not murder his partner. The setting was all wrong. The primary fur sought by the trappers was beaver, used mainly for the fashionable top hats of the eastern United States and Europe. The Europeans had already exterminated the beaver in much of its range in Europe due to over-harvesting. Beavers do not live in a desert, nor do any other furbearing animals that were being sought.
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Bizarre proof, despite THE HI-LO COUNTRY, that British directors can make Westerns.
alice liddell7 September 1999
This splicing of THE SEARCHERS is one of the weirdest films I've ever seen, filmed by a Briton in a strange, unfamiliar Mexico. It's often said that the best films about America are made by foreigners, who can approach the familiar with an outsider's eye. But this crackpot film is something else. Though set ostensibly in post-Civil War America, this isn't an America recognisable from myth, cinema, TV etc. The film has an air of timeless fable about it, while dealing specifically with Western mythology.

Director Harvey uses the title horse as a focus for interconnecting stories, all dealing with the traditional Western clash of the primitive and civilisation. The former seems to have the upper hand. The vast scrub and desert of the film's landscape is unbroken, ripe for allegories of the mind. The only brief sites of civilisation are a stagecoach of missionaries and landowners, and their hacienda, from both of which derive behaviour that is anything but civilised.

The basic story intercuts three stories. In one, an aimless deserter, Pike, having lost his trading partner, steals a miraculous horse, Eagle's Wing, so-called because of its grace and speed. In the second, an Indian, White Bull, owner of this horse, waylays a stagecoach, and kidnaps one of its female occupants. In the third, the Spanish men sent to find her ignore this quest in favour of a murderous, plundering spree.

Although a revisionist Western, the treatment of the Indian is problematic. Unlike Pike, his character is never explained, forever inscrutable, denied a voice, except for an excruciating snatch of song. When he's not a strange Other, he's a symbol, whose role isn't entirely worked out - at one point a savage brute, at another he epitomises nature and freedom.

But Pike notes at the beginning that the film will attend to the period of primitivism before civilisation. In many ways the film resembles 2001 - A SPACE ODYSSEY, especially its opening sequence. Part of the film's power lies in the connections made between the three disparate characters, forcing us to view the mythic struggles and quests in a different light. Indian culture and Catholicism is linked by superstition, ritual, greed and murder. Both Pike and White Bull are musical and alcoholic. White Bull is demonised by both Pike and the abductee as a 'bastard', unwittingly revealing the tactic of illegitimacy used by colonising whites who infantilised the natives, becoming themselves 'necessary' fathers.

Unlike a traditional Western, concerned with making history, civilisation, and progress, this film is a double detective story, interrogating the past, tracks, remains.

What gives this film its remarkable uniqueness, I think, is, despite Maltin's racism, its Britishness. The climactic stand-off is more like an Arthurian joust. The film itself bravely eschews dialogue for the most part, creating the kind of visual and aural tapestry Malick missed in THE THIN RED LINE, and something few Hollywood directors would have dared. The existential doubling and quest motifs are more European myth than American (resembling another British Harvey Keitel movie, THE DUELLISTS).

Most astonishing is the use of nature. Most Westerns use landscape as an awe-inspiring backdrop: there is little sense of actually living in the West. In many ways, EAGLE'S WING is like a Powell and Pressberger film, with nature a powerful, pantheistic character in its own right - alive, dangerous, hostile, beautiful. There is a sublime scene reminiscent of A CANTERBURY TALE, when jewellery left as a trap by White Bull in the trees is suddenly blown in the wind: there is a haunting, tingling, magical, thrilling effect more reminiscent of the Arabian Nights than a horse opera. Heartstopping.
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Enjoyable western about an interminable pursuit with sensational outdoors
ma-cortes31 October 2005
The picture narrates the odyssey of a cowboy (Martin Sheen) that one time murdered his partner , a white trapper ,(Harvey Keitel) by Indians , steals a horse (called Eagle wing) to Comanches . Having stolen a white mustang from a Kiowa Indian , he then pursues him to get his horse back . As he's pursued by an Indian (Sam Waterston) who retrieves it and vice versa , going on a relentless pursuit . Meanwhile , the Indians attack a stagecoach with passengers (Stephane Audran and John Castle as a priest whose role was offered to Trevor Howard) and abduct an attractive girl . A Mexican posse (Enrique Lucero , Claudio Brook ) set out to track down the savage raiders .

Solid western with great loads of action and violence . From the initiation when horse robbing until the final , the fast-movement and action-packed western is continued . The pic is a crossover of various films , the white woman kidnapped by Indians just like ¨The searches¨ (by John Ford) , the battle against nature from ¨ Man in wilderness land ¨ (Richard C Sarafian) and ¨Jeremias Johnson¨ (Sidney Pollack) and obstinacy and stubbornness between two merciless enemies who fight with no rest such as ¨The duelists¨ (Ridley Scott) . The magnificent cast is formed by an excellent Martin Sheen (Apocalypse now) as tough and two-fisted rider obsessed to recover the slim and graceful horse . Sam Waterston (Killing Fields) in a rare role as Comanche is very fine . Supporting cast is featured by European actors, -this is a British production by Rank Organization- such as Stephane Audran (Claude Chabrol's muse) and John Castle (Lion in Winter) as the priest . Besides , Mexican actors (Jorge Luque , Claudio Brook, Enrique Lucero) because being set in Mexican frontier . Splendid cinematography by Billy Williams , it is wonderfully shown on spectacular landscapes . Lively and jolly musical score by by Mark Wilkinson . The motion picture was well directed by Anthony Harvey (Lion in Winter). However , the picture was a flop and barely obtained money and failed at box office .
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Good stuff, really good stuff...
cheeftanz23 March 2008
8+ points for a take on a fresh and probably-kinda-maybe-perhaps-was look into back 'then'. American Indians quite probably stole more than killed (I doubt they were unusually bloodthirsty)...who really knows. Nice slower and somewhat uncommon pursuit... and the way things develop are not patterned which means it has a unique and lovely pace. I found this film to be most interesting. Thankfully not another mindless shoot em up. I thought this film would suck at first, but *wow* I wound up getting wrapped up and being entertained, this is why we have cinema... nice treasure... good job! I have hopes nobody dissects this film. When the entire movie unfolds I experienced many unique twists, impossible to determine what will be next. The characters are entirely human and have either honor or not... passion or not... forgiveness or not. Wound up loving the White Horse, the Indian, Sheen... even the damned desert was great. All good.
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This is like no other cowboy film you'll ever see
janet-5516 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
On first viewing this movie seems to be some kind of fairy tale about a beautiful and significantly white horse once seen never forgotten. However viewed strictly within the context of the story the implication is that to survive in the immediate post-Civil War America, one had to have a horse, and not any old horse but a truly great one. And Eagle's Wing is such a horse. But for a man to be worthy of such a horse is another matter. Who should own it? The Native American or the AWOL soldier? The story throughout pits primitivism against civilisation. As has been said by other commentators it is ironic that it took an English director to perceive this fact, and then develop this simple theme into a western like no other you're ever likely to see again. The film is basically about this beast and the savage harshness of the environment and the people who scrape a living from it. The photography and the soundtrack are exquisite. Martin Sheen's performance is a revelation. This film, released in the same year as Sheen's other great performance as Willard in 'Apocalypse Now', hints at his abilities which somehow were never given such a free rein again. More's the pity. A comparison of the two stories throws up the surprising similarities between them - not least that both films chart a man's journey into his soul in order to find redemption. Whereas Willard is redeemed I will leave it to the viewer to decide if Pike is eventually. The ending is fabulous in the true sense of the word, and very moving; be warned. Altogether this is an extraordinary film.
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an enjoyable & complex western
spj-46 February 2007
"Eagle's Wing" is a pleasant surprise of a movie, & keeps the viewer interested. I didn't know anything about it being made by the British until I read the other viewer comments. I can understand why it won an award for cinematography, for it was brilliantly presented & must have looked magnificent on a vast theatre screen.

It seemed to be a lot more realistic than most westerns, in portraying how the West was more truly won. As well as the complexities of the characters it presents. The Indian-Sam Waterson character is particularly intriguing. He seems to be brutal in the savage environment he is conditioned to, but displays remarkable respect for the frailties he witnesses in the white men & women he encounters. He is not friendly or sensitive to these intruders in his lands, but he has a limit to his sense of vengeance, even a compassion when he is in a position of power & observing the wilting white man bent on revenge, as well as the girl he kidnaps after capturing a stagecoach. As such, his character seems complex but congruous to the harsh lands he lived in & which were threatened by these intruders he is not heartless in his dealings with.

The magnificent horse he rides is a critical link & it is interesting to note how this Indian handles it, compared with the Martin Sheen-character who has it in his possession & power for a time. "Eagle's Wing" is an unusual Western, a genre I am not drawn to, but I really appreciated this excellent offering, which I would rate second only to "A Man Called Horse".
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Intriguing revisionist western
LouE1529 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
An unusual, revisionist western, well worth watching. Despite a slow start, the film builds – with scarcely any dialogue and no subtitles – an increasingly involving and intense, almost existential portrait of life in the harsh environment of the Western desert. The growth of the lead characters is worth waiting for, and the strong central cast bring a real sense of desperation to the struggle for ownership of the all-important horse. How interesting that this was made by a British director. I hope he's smiling now: I get the impression the film was largely ignored by contemporaries; but time works its usual alchemy, and hidden gold shines out as it inevitably must. One note jarred for me: the revisionism is only carried so far. Sam Waterston as an Indian? - granted he plays his part with real emotion and intensity, but really, couldn't one American Indian actor be found to do the job? But his scenes with Caroline Langrishe have an intimacy which contrasts nicely with the immense landscape around them.

Forget big, bankrupt Hollywood versions of the past, men with big chins and swirling music; this one is all about a primeval struggle between protagonists who, stripped of all the trappings of 'ordinary' life, come to understand what is worth fighting for. Impressive.
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"Shoot your little stick my heathen friend..."
classicsoncall14 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
It's not likely you'll catch a Western like this again, good guys and bad guys have little meaning here. Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are pitted against each other as an ex-foot soldier versus a Kiowa warrior, and the mismatch is palpable throughout. There's a great innovative scene where White Bull (Waterston) emerges from a waterhole to ambush Pike (Sheen), in the tradition of your best horror film surprises. That's one of the highlights in a story that ofttimes meanders back and forth with little action. At one point, Waterston is featured in a great Iron Eyes Cody profile that attests to his regal bearing, which director Anthony Harvey uses to tease a possible romantic involvement between the Indian and his captive blonde beauty (Caroline Langrish). That story line goes nowhere, but draws on more than a single exchange of amorous glances between the two.

Martin Sheen gets to inject some humor into the cat and mouse game with some of the few lines of dialog the film actually uses; for his part, White Bull remains entirely silent throughout. It complements his mysterious nature, and the ruse with the tricked out dagger that takes out the thieving Mexican was a nice touch. Sheen does a remarkable job convulsing from that arrow to the leg from White Bull, so much so that you feel his pain.

In the set up for the horseback duel finale, one expects a decisive outcome without knowing who'll win, but again, your standard Western conventions don't bear out. White Bull acknowledges Pike's temerity and allows him to live, and his thundering dust cloud ride into the sunset sets both men free. The ending though, managed to elicit an unintended chuckle just like Vincent Price does in the closing sequence of "The Fly", when Judith and Pike separately plead their case to the heavens - "Please, help me".
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Haunting and unusual Western
heedarmy5 January 2000
After a slow first half, which seems to have suffered from some heavy-handed cutting, the second half of this striking Western is a fascinating struggle between Indian and white man for the possession of a magnificent horse (the "eagle's wing" of the title). The film's two main assets are Billy Williams' magnificent cinematography and a beautiful music score by Marc Wilkinson.

Watch out also for a moving and unexpected graveside poetry reading by Sheen. This was one of the last major films produced by England's Rank Organization.
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Interlacement of Seven Deadly Sins and Four Types of Justice
julia_leite6 June 2006
I have just read what I believe to be an analysis of this film by a lyrical Irishman. Lovely to read.

However, a concise analysis of this film is that it is a interweaving of the seven deadly sins with the four types of justice.

Envy, greed, pride, sloth, anger, etc. and justice in the forms of retributive, distributive, blind, and divine.

I could demonstrate three examples of each, one for each of the three protagonists; however, it is much more fun to note them for oneself.

This is an excellent film.

Don't miss it.
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Offbeat British Western shot in Mexico with Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston
Wuchakk17 September 2016
Released in 1979, "Eagle's Wing" is an English Western about a white trapper (Martin Sheen) circa 1830 who steals a white mustang named Eagle's Wing from a laconic Kiowa Native (Sam Waterston). The Native then pursues him to get his horse back. Harvey Keitel, Stéphane Audran and Caroline Langrishe are also on hand.

This is a unique, professionally-made Western. The tone is thoroughly realistic, Waterston is impressive as the Native, the women are good-looking and the Mexican locations are magnificent, albeit thoroughly desolate. Unfortunately, the story isn't very absorbing. But the film's interesting in some ways and certainly worthy of your Western collection.

The movie runs 111 minutes.

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Not So Strange...
studiojudio15 April 2006
The mere presence of Sam Waterston as an Indian, is enough to put this movie in the must-see category. He is both beautiful and very subtle, with no lines whatsoever. He is tender with his kidnappee, and yet we can see he is among the proudest of all young Indian Men. Martin Sheen is just a dumb cluck who decides to challenge Waterston (White Bull) for a gorgeous white horse. Other sub-plots are really unnecessary. I don't understand the part played by Caroline Langrishe, as the poor girl who White Bull kidnaps...I don't know how she keeps her hands off this beautiful Indian man! It's a lot of fun, though; especially if you're a Waterston fan. Man, he looks GOOD in this one!!! Harvey Keitel's role isn't even worth mentioning, to tell the truth! But, rent it and enjoy! Actually, I do believe that if the music score was better, it would've been a more dramatic film...the music is so bad, it's distracting. Still - there's Mr. Waterston!
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gregorhauser13 January 2002
I just saw "Eagle´s wing". I do not really know why this movie was made. What is the message of this story? Nevertheless I liked it. There are some exciting scenes in it. I appreciate a strong performance by Martin Sheen. Harvey Keitel is less convincing.
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Very beautiful, intelligent (and different) movie
CorpSteiner18 October 2012
I saw this movie when I was about 18 years old, and I never forgot it. Now, almost 30 years later I have seen it again and I reassure my conviction: It is an excellent movie. It is not for everybody: If you are looking for western action, this is not going a good movie for you. If you are not open to weird movies, this is not for you either. But if you are open to new approaches, I am sure you will not be disappointed with it. It is exciting, unpredictable and has a very good photography. I liked also the acting of the main characters, and the twists of the story.

From other point of view, it gives you a lot of material to think about the tragedies that occur because of the human ambitions, and the big Tragedy that occurred in that clash of civilizations that happened in the far west, the same kind of tragedy that is happening again in these days in several parts of our world.
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TedMichaelMor29 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Eagle's Wing" baffles me. Visually, it is incredibly beautiful, though I do not understand the iconography and whatever symbolism plays within it. I cannot set it in a historical period though commentators have explained that aspect of the film. I am not certain who the characters are and sometimes I am not certain who the actors are.

I do not see anything particularly innovative. Sometimes conventional elements, such as an intrusive musical sound track near the end of the movie, seem superfluous.

I suppose the film is mythic but I am almost clueless about what that means here. There are scenes in which the trappings of wealth and power seem meaningless within the forbidding but lovely landscape.

"Eagle Wings" lacks the wryness of Samuel Becket, the clarity of the monoliths or the personality of HAL from Stanley Kubrick, or the grit of John Ford but the captured girl is pretty even if she is abandoned in the wilderness. For some reason, I like this movie. It is a nihilist masterpiece.
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Impressive British western making justice to the indians!!!
elo-equipamentos29 March 2019
Do you know that DVD which l'd bought like a bargain, having Martin Sheen in lead role??? Yeah, l put it in my western's section and every time that l make a choice l've been avoided it, thinking Sheen and Waterston making a western, hum ....I don't know, but at last l took it, l'd stayed appalled in so unaccustomed approach of those usual westerns, firstly indian's role is always best suitable by mexican's actors, this we have Waterston, to American's characters they call some specific actors already with previous relation on western, they casting Sheen, the plot describing on humanized native Indians as a thief than bloody warriors, providential accuracy. both leading actors have a duel for a white stallion, taking it as personal proud, just few lines spoke by Sheen, Waterston didn't say a thing, the final part on thrilling chase across the desert was so fabulous, a flawless action, a British production try demystify the old western by a dared new aspect provides by Rank Organization on unusual way, highly underrated by overall pattern, it deserves a second look for those who really enjoy lost gem on dust of past time!!!!


First watch: 2019 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD / Rating: 8
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Extremely underrated Wild West fable
leoperu30 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For Anthony Harvey whose work - as far as I know - consists mainly of dialogue-driven psychodramas, "Eagle's Wing" represents something like a step aside. But what a step ! The movie featuring beautiful widescreen photography, nice score, and Sam Waterston as a Kiowa warrior (audacious turn, indeed !) can be viewed as a western, although it is rather a sophisticated ethno-socio-philosophical-ethical allegory of clashing + blending cultures (a.o.).

Whenever I watch "Eagle's Wing" ending, I am reminded of the last shots of Ridley Scott's unforgettable debut "The Duellists" - after all, both films have a lot of things in common.

It's a shame that there's not one DVD version worthy of such a great movie. The latest, American one, despite its flaws, seems to be the best of the three known to me - at least it is transferred in the original aspect ratio.
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Beautiful plot and performances
acari2710 August 2014
Lets face it, there's nothing video clip slick about this movie, its 1979,but.what stands above all else is the plot - and a couple of exemplary performances, and some lovely pictures-and despite numerous stories that become one in this film-this is ultimately a tale about obsession with the horse. In this case heroism, riches, dignity and respect are all sacrificed for a white fine limbed high tailed arabian ..almost to the point of despair...it has its ugly beautiful moments, and as horrific as it is to get a white guy to play a native American (similar to the cringe we feel when whitey's play a chinaman in some films), something about waterstons acting makes it feel OK, and lets face it-its a ripper of a plot, no matter what era you put it in ..."help me" sheen whimpers..and to all of us similarly obsessed with the horse, we understand...and we support abandoning the girl..lament the loss, and fly across the plains with that white wildness, that we will never see again..to those that know what im talking about..im truly sorry for our loss...one of those rare beautiful films that you watch as a kid and never ever forget
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Eagle's Wing
osloj16 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Eagle's Wing (1979) is the type of film you rarely see, filled with poetic shots of the desert landscape, it is sumptuous merely to watch. From the looks of it, it seems to be about Texas or New Mexico territories tribes, probably Comanche and Kiowa, or even the Plains Apache (also called Kiowa-Apache).

Sam Waterston as White Bull is exceptional. Martin Sheen as Pike is a great contribution as well.

The cast also has in tow many superb actors from all phases of cinema.

I loved Eagle's Wing.

The view is stunning.
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