Centurion, a Roman empire epic set in Britain in 117 AD, has many of those qualities we see in the best of this genre: A plot line as empty as Gladiator’s; self-polishing abs breast plates for all officers; The Life of Brian’s historical attention to accuracy. It adds blood arcing for some distance into the sky when a lance meets an eyeball. And there are two feral lady barbarians, one blond with what looks like bad teeth (Aeron, played by Axelle Carolyn) and one brunette, whose teeth look just fine, as do her breasts (Etain, played silently by Olga Kurylenko). The brunette fancies skins when she goes out hunting Romans in the deep winter forest; scanty skins when in a tent.
Centurion, in other words, is as silly as they come. Briefly, it’s about an attempt by the Ninth Legion, led by General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West), to march north into what is now Scotland and eliminate the Pict threat. Evidently Virilus never read up on the fate of Publius Quinctilius Varus, no general but a good administrator. Marching deep into the Teutoburg Forest in what is now Germany, he and his three legions were attacked by combined Germanic tribes. Varus committed suicide in the middle of the battle. His three legions disintegrated. Probably 20,000 or more Roman soldiers died compared to a handful of barbarians.
General Virilus, virile and confidant, who didn’t read his history, marches his men into the thick forests of Pictland. Flash forward to the next day. Virilus is in chains in the squalid camp of the Pict king. Most of his men have been slaughtered. Later, a handful of survivors led by Centurion Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) try to rescue him. No luck. The Pict king’s young son is killed and the general dies in a forced fight with Etain. The seven Romans escape and head south with a handful of Pict hunters (led by Etain and Aeron) hot on their trail. Pict hunters die one by one; the Roman seven almost die one by one.
What’s good about Centurion? The make-up and the set-designer. Picts look as dirty and flea-bitten as their filthy encampments. Most of the Romans look as filthy as the Picts. There are stunning, craggy, shivering cold scenes of the Highlands.
What lacks in Centurion? Characters we can give even a small hoot for. Most of the time we can’t remember one from another. Fassbender seems to be a rising star, but all he’s called upon to do in this movie is fight, run monotonously and look tired. Only one actor in the cast stands out as tough and smart, and that is that fine actor Liam Cunningham. He’s made a lot of drek, but look for him in Shooting the Past, Dog Soldiers and The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The movie's battle scenes, particularly Virilus’ march north, is shot only to show slashing swords and more spurts of blood. There’s no way to follow the battles. A plot also is lacking. The first third is an excuse for gore. The last two-thirds is an excuse for gore and long-distance running. The roles of Etain and Aeron are a sop to the 18-29-year-old audience the director seems to care most for.
Centurion is not a movie. It’s a mediocre comic book for all those who love abs enhancing armor, horsehair helmet crests and those inspiring National Geographic maps showing the Roman Empire at its greatest extent.
The name Neil Marshall is enough to draw me in seeing a film since I was real impressed with “Dog Soldiers” and I liked “The Descent” for its "girls who fight back" overtones; also, despite my disappointments with “Doomsday”, I didn’t hate that one at all. This time, Marshall goes for the swordplay-historical epic theme with his film “CENTURION” that he wrote and directed himself. The film is based on the story of the Ninth … more
** out of **** It took "Doomsday" for me to realize just how strange Neil Marshall's "The Descent" looks on his entire filmography. "The Descent" is a great horror film and always will be, but Marshall seems more content with B-Movies than he is with actual masterpieces. Still, I have always expressed interest in his work. I think he is talented at what he does, although little by little, he might be loosing my support. While "Centurion" ultimately fails to be the first "bad" … more
Since I retired in 1995 I have tried to hone skills in muttering to myself, writing and napping. At 75, I live in one of those places where one moves from independent living to hospice. I expect to begin … more
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In ancient Scotland, a Roman officer named Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) is liberated from his Pictish captors by the Ninth Legion. The soldiers are in pursuit of the Picts' leader, and Quintus joins their quest. Soon after, the Romans' Pictish guide betrays them, resulting in the slaughter of all but a handful of men. Quintus and his fellow survivors try desperately to reach safety as enemy warriors pick them off one by one.