There’s a sure fire way of testing whether you will enjoy this film. Does the following opening scene appeal to you:
A Roman Centurion decides to have a big massive solider wee off the top of a battlement (why? Because he’s a freakin Roman solider and they can do whatever the hell they want, alright?). He gets out his Roman manhood, grunts in a Roman-y way and lets rip, like only a Roman can. Suddenly, out of nowhere, he gets stabbed from below – in the arse, just to confirm – right up his jacksey like a kebab with a helmet on. Mid wee. Down he falls. Probably into the wee. Let war commence!
Yes, or no? If the above sounds like damn good fun, then Centurion is for you (and definitely for us). If not, maybe go see The Princess and The Frog or something, where there’s decidedly less arse-stabbings (almost none).
Bringing The Legend To Life
Centurion explores the legend of the Ninth Legion; a tale in which approximately 5000 Roman soldiers -the legion – were massacred in Scotland by the Picts; a rival British army sick of Roman rule. Director Neil Marshall happily admits that he is not trying for historical accuracy with his film, that he wanted to use the legend as a starting point to make a Roman/British thriller.
Marshall’s tale follows a small gang of Romans who survive the horrific Pict attack. Led by Quintas Dias (Michael Fassbender), the men that are left have to try and rescue their leader (Dominic West) from the enemy before they are picked off one by one. The plot centres on the chase between the remaining soldiers, and the vengeful Picts who are determined to wipe out every last Roman they can find. Led by mute tracker Etain (Olga Kurylenko), there is no-one the Pict warriors cannot find, and soon the exhausted, wounded and desperate Romans have to decide, when should soldiers run, and when is the time to fight?
Don’t Try And Keep Count…
Centurion’s plot is very simple, it is essentially a chase movie with a lot – and we mean a lot – of violence. We don’t want to give everything away, but just don’t get too attached to many of the characters, because if there’s one thing Neil Marshall seems to like most, it’s people getting hacked to death. And to be fair, the fight scenes look and sound great – particularly the one-on-one battles between Etain (Kurylenko) and the Roman generals. The pans across the misty Scottish moors are both beautiful and effective, drawing us into an ancient world where tensions run high and blood runs – well, bloody everywhere.
Not Built In A Day
If we were to critique Centurion, it would be for its lack of interesting characters, and lack of character interaction throughout. There are the ‘good’ people, the ‘bad’ ones, and generally speaking everyone on screen does exactly what you think they’re going to do. Because of the lack of character depth, there’s not really a lot of opportunity for light relief; everyone is too busy being cliche ‘troubled soldiers’ to show any real flashes of humanity, which makes all the conversation rather one-note, and rather like this-
Soldier “I cannot go on”
Other Solider “We have to go on”
Soldier “You must leave me here”
Other Solider “I shall not leave you”
Soldier “Oh, alright then, cool, cheers mate” (maybe not so much the last line)
In essence, this is a armour-clanging, moody makeup and dripping-swords slasher, with some sophisticated shots and a lot of great action. It may not leave you particularly thoughtful after watching, but by thunder it’s entertaining. And at the end of the day, it makes you want to buy a sword. Which is always good, right?