Director and writer Neil Marshall, known for “The Decent” and “Doomsday,” brings us this attempted gladiator style film. Apart from being shot similar to that of Ridley Scotts’ Gladiator, the plot also shares many traits with Oliver Stones’ Platoon.
Being set in the deep hills of Northern Britain, Centurion contains decent battle scenes where there is no shortage of blood, decapitation, mutilation and overall gore. The film also gives a fair depiction of life during the Roman Empire; you either agree with Roman rule or your killed.
The characters, although lacking in depth, accurately depict the look of people in those times – gritty, blood covered, and overall, savage-like. Centurion stars the new and upcoming actor, Michael Fassbender. Known now for his roles in “X-Men: First Class” and “Inglorious Bastards,” he has proven to be a worthy actor. Another, perhaps less common actor, is Dominic West.
This British actor is seen in films such as “300,” “Chicago” and “Hannibal Rising.” Apart from these two actors, many of the others are less common. For the most part, the characters in this film are less important due to their lack of overall character and shortness of life. The majority of the characters are beheaded and massacred before you can attempt to remember their names.
Centurion opens with an unusually long shot of the mountainous regions of Northern Britain. The Roman rule expanded far into these mountains and it was here that the Romans received much resistance and guerrilla warfare from the Pict locals. The first 10 minutes of the film tells the story of Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) and how his roman Century was attacked and he was taken prisoner.
Running parallel to that subplot is the story of General Titus Flavious Virilus (Dominic West). A significantly greater amount of time is spent describing how the General and his Ninth Legion are sent on mission to destroy the Picts. In order for the film to continue, and being obvious in the scenes from the film – you know something will go disastrously wrong. It does, and everyone is slaughtered, except for the General and several of his men.We now jump back to the subplot involving Quintus, who managed to escape from Pict captivity and is seen outrunning men on horses. He manages to fall down a hill and hides under the mangled bodies of his fellow Romans.
The rest of the film is a cat and mouse chase through the hills, woods and mountains of Britain. After the General is killed by the Picts in captivity, Quintus seeks revenge on them. The Pict leader, Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomson, also seen in “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Hitman”) sends his most merciless tracker, one who also has a personal hatred for Romans, Etain (played by “Quantum of Solace” bond girl, Olga Kurylenko).
The game of cat and mouse seems to just go on and on until, if not a cliché, they stumble across the hut of a beautiful outcasted Pict named Arianne. She nurses the men back to health, hides them from Etain, and feeds them. Surprisingly enough, a relationship is even formed between her and Quintus; a very shallow relationship due to how underdeveloped their characters are.
One of the most eye-catching characteristics of Centurion is the way writer-director Neil Marshall depicts blood. Using a different technique; almost CGI, blood literally shoots everywhere. This new technique only makes the bloodshed more unrealistic and video game like. If this is Marshall’s plan, he is very good at making a fight scene look like it is from the Mortal Combat video game. For the most part, Centurion could use some work.
Character development is a very important part of a film. Although not essential for the characters that are killed within 5 minutes of the film, it is essential for characters like Quintus, Arianne and Titus. For characters attempting to band and survive together, one would think that some additional depth would go a long way.