Neil Marshall’s quasi historical epic Centurion is more of a ‘what could have happened’ sandwiched between a very thin layer of historical facts and is based around the popular rumour surrounding the disappearance of Rome’s most feared 9th Legion. The popular version is that the 9th, at the time numbering some 4,000 men, was sent to vanquish the Picts of what is now known as Scotland, and were never seen or heard of again.
Marshall weaves an epic tale of politics, betrayal, revenge and more politics.
Quintus is a Roman Centurion and only survivor of a Roman outpost attacked by the Picts, managing to escape captivity, and in the process of being hunted down, is rescued by the legendary 9th Legion as they march to do battle with the Pict. The 9th’s General Virilus recognises Quintus history – which I’m not going into here – and because he has no other real option, instantly conscripts him into the 9th.
Of course the 9th are marching into a trap, and are quickly slaughtered, with only a few men surviving. With Quintus taking charge of the motley crew, they botch an attempt to rescue General Virilus from Pict captivity then have to spend the remainder of the film, on the run from the Picts’ legendary trackers as one by one they are slaughtered.
Marshall manages to create a sweeping epic where the viewer is unsure as to who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, with your allegiance changing from time to time. Marshall once again creates a strong female character (as he did in his two pervious films) in Etain, which is a refreshing and welcome change to the usual Hollywood approach to females. Etain’s past which is told to us succinctly will have you on her side for the most part, as she seems to be fighting for the most noble cause in a story so murky that there is in-fact but a glimmer of hope for humanities future in the entire hour and half runtime.
Visually Marshall has created a feast of sweeping shots, intense battles and visceral carnage with blood spraying in the over the top style that was recently seen on Kiwi TV screening with Spartacus. The blood shots do feel a little out of place in the stunning wilderness of the craggy Scottish highlands, but works well with what you’d expect from Marshall.
The story is compelling enough, and travels at a nice pace that will keep you glued to the TV, wondering just who will triumph, and how many – on either side – will last out the film.
An intense visual feast that puts Marshall back in my good books after the slightly disappointing Doomsday.
Reviewed by: Jonathan