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.