“Centurion" Movie Review

9/03/2010 Posted by Admin


Movie Review

Written and directed by Neil Marshall, 97 minutes, rated R.

By our guest blogger, Joel Crabtree

It’s one thing to hand a woman a spear and tell her to look pretty. It’s another to hand her a spear and tell her to become the most feared huntress thirsty for Roman blood.

That’s precisely what Neil Marshall does in “Centurion,” as the writer-director takes his first stab (quite literally) at a historical epic. What is most striking is his portrayal of women as warriors. What Hollywood films would save for a surprise (“Wow, look, the woman can defend herself and even fight with the guys”), Marshall uses gratuitously and effectively, putting his stamp on an otherwise played-out genre.

Michael Fassbender stars as the title Roman centurion Quintis Dias, who finds himself in the armpit of the world (117 A.D. Roman Britain) fighting a war without honor and without end against the rebellious Picts tribe.

It’s evident from his narration that Dias is worn-out, and the film persists to test and push him through every moment. It begins when Dias is taken prisoner by the Picts, continues with his exhausting escape and goes further as he joins the ill-fated Roman Ninth Legion, led by General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West).

An ambush from the Picts leaves the Legion more than a little shorthanded, splintering an army of 3,000 into a small handful of soldiers and one cook. When the crew finds out Virilus is still alive and held captive by the Picts, the band of soldiers cross enemy lines in a hopeless attempt to break him free.

Rather than risk the lives of his soldiers, who surely would be killed if caught in the Pict camp, he commands them to leave, placing the lives of his men in the hands of Dias. The remains of the legion have no option but to attempt to outrun and outsmart the aforementioned huntress, Etain (Olga Kurylenko), and make it home with their heads still attached.

With dozens of macabre decapitations and throat slits, Marshall’s horror influences are splattered throughout the film. Gritty, grisly and covered in dismembered body parts, “Centurion” is as much a genre movie as it is a piece of historical fiction.

Both the Romans and the Picts rip, tear, slash and gouge their way through 97 minutes, sometimes for survival, sometimes for revenge, and once or twice just for the hell of it. None is more fierce than the tongueless Etain, whose eyes are as piercing as her weapons. Her hostility toward the Romans is more than justified after being raped and tortured as a child.

Marshall constructs strong characters and has found the perfect landscape for them in 117 A.D. Roman Britain. The cast, from Fassbender (pitch-perfect as the centurion) and Kurylenko to Imogen Poots as a Pict cast-off, bring their own dirty, beaten-down frustration and aggression to their roles.

“Centurion,” however, errs on the simple side of storytelling, which reveals the weaknesses in Marshall’s writing. Outside of tackling the Ninth Legion, the premise lacks any originality. Even so, Marshall pulls it off. Anything more complex would probably have just turned the movie into a slog, sucking the fun out of the experience. And make no mistake about it, “Centurion” is not meant to be a heavy-handed epic--it’s an enjoyable bloodbath that might be able to cross the aisle.

Grade: B

What are your thoughts on “Centurion”?

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