Neil Marshall burst onto the scene years ago with his debut of “Dog Soldiers.” The movie was liked by most and he went on to direct “The Decent,” “Doomsday” and now “Centurion.” If you have seen any of these films, you know Marshall’s visual style and love of blood and gore in his films. He embraces the animalistic side of man and doesn’t shy away from bloodshed. Also a writer and editor for some of his films, Marshall really injects a lot of himself into his cinematic endeavors. Although this is an admirable thing to do, Marshall needs to make sure he doesn’t have the same downward spiral that M. Night Shayamalan’s career has taken and realize that sometimes a bit of distance from a project isn’t such a bad thing.
“Centurion,” set in 117 A.D., is a tale about the legend of the ill-fated 9th Legion of the Roman Army, which went to battle and never returned. This is Marshall’s interpretation of their story. “Centurion” is a Roman chase war epic that tales the story of the Italian contingent that are terrorized and slowly killed off by the rebellious and vicious Picts, a tribe of Celtic warriors that refuse to submit to foreign rule. The lone survivor of a massacre at his outpost, Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) manages to escape the clutches of the brutal Picts King, Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomson) and luckily he meets up with the 9th regiment on its way to battle.
After their regiment is ambushed and massacred by a guerrilla band of Scots, Quintas and a handful of multicultural soldiers become stranded behind enemy lines. Then, on a rescue mission to free their captured general, Titus Verilius (Dominic West), one of the group kills the king’s son, who in turn makes an oath that he will not rest until the small group of soldiers has been killed. He sends expert tracker Etain (Olga Kurylenko) and a group of warriors out to hunt them down and slaughter them all. This sets into motion a chase scene of grand proportions and many bloody battles and intense action sequences. Can the few remaining soldiers of the 9th Legion make it home alive when they are stranded hundreds of miles into enemy territory?
This could be considered a “B Film,” since it has a lower budget than most period movies and not a lot of well-known actors. But as has been the trend in the past 10 to 15 years, B movies are registering with a wider audience and garnering more appreciation. This movie takes itself just serious enough as to not be considered cheesy or a spoof. The movie is narrated by the character Quintus Dias, who takes us on a journey with him. Normally, narration can be seen as a cliché, but Fassbender pulls this off quite nicely with total sincerity. Not totally period-accurate, the main characters often use modern dialect and phrases, this to me helps set the tone for the film and I like it. Using wide telescopic aerial shots to show the vast beauty and rigidness of the land, we get to see the many different types of landscape they have to venture through to get home. I wouldn’t be surprised if this movie does — on a much smaller scale — for tourism in Scotland what “Lord of the Rings” did for it in New Zealand.
The main focus of this movie is Michael Fassbender as the leader of the few remaining Roman soldiers and rightfully so. He completely embodies his character and you can see the qualities of a true leader in him. His casting was brilliant and is what helps make this movie work. There are a few plotlines that have no real relevance to the main story, but overall this film is a quick-paced action adventure that can thrill you, make you cringe, and have you cheering all at the same time. So go into this movie with the right mindset and you will truly enjoy.
“Centurion” is being released in limited theaters Aug. 27 and is rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, grisly images and language.
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