– Summary –
Director : Neil Marshall
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Imogen Poots, Riz Ahmed, Noel Clarke.
Synopsis: When a Roman Legion is all but obliterated by a ravaging horde of Picts, a small group of survivors must make their way to the Roman lines in the south, all the while being pursued across the harsh terrain of Scotland.
What we think : Stylish, yet curiously ambivalent action/adventure flick from British director Marshall, sees plenty of blood and gore spraying across the screen: the point of the film, and indeed the characters themselves, seem lost in amongst the Gladiator-styled carnage and chest beating testosterone. Local distributor Hopscotch should also receive a caveat for their deplorably horrifying BluRay transfer, which only exacerbates the frustration with this film.
Producing a period film these days is fraught with disaster: they’re not the easiest film to achieve, nor are they always successful – a fact due mainly to the inherent issue of the period no longer being socially relevant to our modern world. Neil Marshall, who gave us the terrific Dog Soldiers, the awesome Descent, and the relatively reasonable Doomsday, has once more given the blood-boys plenty to do with Centurion, a graphic, bloodthirsty glimpse into the butchery of ancient Rome traipsing across continent after continent in order to expand their empire. Roman centurion Quintus Dias (Fassbender) has escaped from the marauding Picts (early Scots) and is picked up by members of the Roman 9th Legion, led by General Titus (West), only to find himself thrust into battle as the 9th is sent to wipe out the locals and complete their mission. When the Picts set an ambush, annihilating all but a few of the 9th legion, Dias must lead them to not only try and free the captive General, but to escape to the Roman lines way in the south, across vast mountain terrain. Pursuing them, on the orders of Pict king Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen), is mute huntress Etain (Kurylenko), a nasty piece of work if there ever was one. Eagle eyed viewers will recognise former Doctor Who companion Noel Clarke as one of the Roman survivors, while Indiana Jones’ sworn enemy Paul Freeman makes an extended cameo as a Roman politician.
Characters seem second best to the carnage of Neil Marshall’s Roman epic, and whereas Gladiator had plenty of meat on the bones of the story, here, Centurion seems like one giant chase film filled with various methods of human evisceration. Barely a minute passes without somebody being stabbed, sliced, beheaded or gutted with a variety of weapons that’d make Russell Crowe shit his pants. While the blood and gore might be accurate to the way life was lived (or not) in this time period, eventually it becomes dull and monotonous, resulting in a story left hanging on the threads of a half-baked promise and shallow, trite platitudes about honour and courage. The visuals are truly spectacular, with Marshall filming in and around Scotland, as well as places in England. The action is plentiful, although filmed in that now commonplace jagged-frame jittery style Spielberg used for much of the battles in Saving Private Ryan. It’s starting to get annoying. Overall, I’d complain that Centurion had so much potential that it never fully delivered on – perhaps it’s time for Marshall to put away the blood pumps and deliver a film more interested in storytelling than brilliantly realised visuals.