Centurion is a violent film loosely based on actual events in history and when I say loosely, I really mean it. The film is certainly well acted and full of talent, but does having the movie play fast and loose with history hurt the overall package? Find out by reading on…
Short nitty-gritty plot description from IMDb is as follows: A splinter group of Roman soldiers fight for their lives behind enemy
lines after their legion is decimated in a devastating guerrilla attack.
As I’ve already mentioned, the film is loosely based on Roman history and tries to give it’s own explaintion as to what happened with the massacre of the Ninth Legion. In the movie, the Romans are facing off again the Picts, a group of celtic tribes that lived in Scotland. The movie presents a story with no clear good/bad guy. They try to force on you who to cheer for, but each side has a reason for the actions they do. I’m no history professor, so I can’t tell if Centurion managed to assault the actual history, but I’m sure some will take offense to some details they got wrong, though nothing jumped out at me that made me go, “wait, that can’t be right.”
Directed by Neil Marshall (Doomsday, The Decent, Dog Soldiers), Centurion is laced with a tightly wound plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat for it’s 97 minute runtime. The film rarely slows down, which sadly does hurt the character development side of things. For a majority of the film, we stick to a set group of people that we barely have any information on. We get a sliver of backstory during a few scenes, but not enough in my opinion. Of course I wouldn’t worry to much about character development, as you won’t be seeing them for long. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but let it be known the Centurion is a film that doesn’t mind butchering several of the cast. (It seems it might’ve been infected with the Game of Thrones virus that’s going around.) This makes for some tense scenes and really keeps the heart racing during all those action packed set pieces.
Having small character development doesn’t manage to cause problems in the acting department. Michael Fassbender has a strong role as Centurion Quintus Dias. Fassbender is forced into a role that requires him to step up and become a leader to this small band of men. He does so with flying colours, even if most of the people in the movie get killed. Olga Kurylenko, plays the mute Etain. I applaud her an performing a role that required her to not speak a word. Her entire performance is based on body action along and even though she looks like she weights 80lbs, she still emotes a fierce persona. It feels like a dishonor not to mention everyone else, as each person puts in a commendable performance, but the review would be way too long for that, so I must move on.
Before I come to a conclusion I must nitpick some stuff that bothered me while watching. First, the violence in the film is fantastic, but is severely hurt by some blatant CGI blood. Why must films feel the need to incorporate CGI into everything? It feels out of place and cheap. Second, a scene happens early in the film where a man is bite by a bug (tick? spider?), the film takes time out to show this scene, yet nothing comes from it. I thought for sure that he would fall ill from whatever bit him, but nothing happens. I suppose it’s meant to show you how rough the terrain is, but in the context that it was shown, it seemed like it would be more important in the long run. Third and final, is the strange choice to split the group up half way through the film. The movie sticks with the first group (Fassbender) and makes you forget the other two people. When it comes time to explain what happened to them, the matter is glossed over. A few more scenes than what we were shown, would’ve been nice. Rumor is, the film was cut down after a test screening, so maybe those scenes lay on a cutting room floor somewhere.
Centurion is a suspenseful action-thriller with a razor-sharp pace. The acting is fantastic and the violence is in your face. I say grab some popcorn, curl up and prepare to watch the body count rise. A definite recommend from yours truly.