Thursday, August 19, 2010

TADFF Review: Centurion


Set in Britain in AD 117, The Roman Empire is at war with savages known as Picts. The Picts refuse to submit to Roman rule, and plan to destroy any Roman that crosses their path. Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender), the sole survivor of a Picts’ raid on a Roman frontier fort, finds himself leading a small group Ninth Legion soldiers. The Ninth Legion was once a fearsome band of Roman soldiers until they were ambushed by the Picts. After their general (Dominic West) was captured, and the majority of the men slaughter, Dias was entrusted with the task of leading and six remaining Ninth Legion soldiers home. Yet their quest home is riddled with danger as the Picts’ leader, Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen), has made it his personal mission to hunt down the remaining members of the Ninth Legion at all cost. Dias and his band of soldiers must navigate through unfamiliar terrain, and evade the Picts’ expert tracker Etain (Olga Kurylenko), in order to reach Roman soil before it is too late.

Normally a film with this much blood and carnage would hold my interest on the most basic, and primal, level. Unfortunately the relentless amount of decapitations was not enough to keep my eyelids from closing down a few times throughout Centurion. Now I am fully aware that the unusually large amount of softball that I have played in the last couple of days may have factored into my weary state. Yet Centurion, of all the films at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, should have been the jolt of adrenaline that my body needed. Sadly, the repetitive nature of the film only added to the dullness of the overall production. The film pretty much follows the same formula throughout: The Romans talk a big game, get their asses handed to them by the Picts, then run into the woods looking for a safe place to hide. Add in some beautiful scenery and that is pretty much the film in a nutshell,

Centurion was high on my “to see list” as it stars Michael Fassbender and was directed by Neil Marshall. After his brilliant work in films such as Hunger and Fish Tank (my review to come soon), not to mention his role in Inglourious Basterds, Michel Fassbender is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors. He brings so much vigor to every role he plays. Fassbender’s talents are wasted in this film. He is not giving much to work with at all as Neil Marshall spends more time on the action scenes than he does crafting a solid plot. Although Marshall’s previous films Dog Soldiers and Doomsday were entertaining, neither really showcased his talents fully the way The Descent did. I was hoping that Centurion would be Marshall’s best film yet but it ended up being his weakest one to date. The only thing I will say in Neil Marshall’s favour is that he always incorporates strong female characters into his film. Olga Kurylenko, who you may remember from Quantum of Solace, is the real bright spot of the film. Not only is she a fearsome warrior but she is also one of the few characters who actually has an interesting back-story. Granted, her life is summarized in two or three lines but at least it is something. Most of the other characters are rather indistinguishable from each other.

Since the bloody action is always at the forefront, Marshall never provides enough character development to bring any depth to all the carnage. At the beginning the Romans are portrayed as good and the Picts are viewed as bad…but is really the case? Both sides have committed great sins against each other. As the film goes on, it becomes increasingly tough to care for either side. Centurion tries hard to follow in the footsteps of the many sword and sandal films that came before it. Yet, at the end of the day, Centurion is nothing more than a mindless action film that is fairly easy to fall asleep to.

Grade: D


  1. This is a really good review of the film from what i saw, but i did also think it was helped by the team's background in horror films. ive written some thoughts about it at
    you should check it out, post a comment if you like

  2. @Jack - The horror background did help to enhance some of the early fight scenes. Gave it a really eerie feel. I will be sure to give your review a read.


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