263 of 277 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2010
This is a story set in the time of Roman Britain. It begins with the `myth' of the 9th Legion, which might have been destroyed in battle with the wild Picts of Scotland. The bulk of the story though is concerned with the flight of a small group of survivors and the merciless pursuit of their fierce and vengeful enemies.
Frankly I struggle to understand the low profile of this film and the lukewarm reports. In my opinion it is a perfectly reasonable movie with some exceptional aspects. These include the stunning scenery which really conveys the bracing cold and desolation but also beauty of the far-North. It looks like an ancient land, all rugged and wild and is almost worth the price of admission alone. The Picts are hard as glacial ice, tough and violent and look very impressive too.
With the story itself I had a few quibbles but it was serviceable. The action scenes were generally good, even tense in places but I was annoyed with some battle scenes which featured the modern technique of very frequent and too fast cut-a-ways, making it hard to know exactly what was happening. A note here, it is very bloody - there are flying limbs, very crushed body bits and blood splattering everywhere. This is however what the weapons of the time did. Both sides are shown as the hard cases they were too. The Picts are savage but the Romans were hardly the Red Cross. The characters are adequate, with the Pict King and the deadly female tracker being quite impressive. I enjoyed watching the Roman legion on the match and in battle, though its camp routine seemed different to the acknowledged practice. But the uniforms and armour looked pretty good to a layman like me. There was also some funny soldier by-play to provide some chuckles.
So, it's well filmed, showing the era about as authentically as you can get. The story itself is ok. There are some good twists and at times, some real tension! In all I found it to be very entertaining. It is a muscular film that deserves an audience. If you have interests in ancient warfare, you should find this quite rewarding.
68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2011
This is an absolutely excellent historical fiction film, granted with extreme license. OK, I am a Roman history pedant and aficionado of historical novels, so I brought to this a critical eye, but also a hope that I would get enveloped in the narrative, in subtle character, in wonder at the endless varieties of human ambition. At this, it was so successful that I forgot the present with complete delight, even after 2 full viewings.
In terms of history, this is fiction based on speculation about what happened to the 9th Legion, which disappeared from the historical record without a trace - the only way to limn what happened to them is to piece together ambiguous clues, such as the inscriptions on grave stones scattered throughout the former empire. The time is that of the Emperor Hadrian, the golden age of the Roman Empire - the series of good, circumspect emperors who governed judiciously and without the insane excess that is remembered with Nero or Commodus. Rome is one of the largest stable empires the world has ever known, though it has experienced resistance in certain areas, such as the Picts in Northern Britain or the Parthians in Central Asia. Whatever happened, the film that concocts an explanation, and it is as plausible as an other, with plenty of fictional speculation and fantasy thrown in to build a narrative.
To be honest, the film either works for you or it doesn't. All I can say is, if you liked HBO's Rome, this is the same kind of grainy, highly textured portrait, just not in the center (Rome) but on the periphery. I believe this preference is personal and subjective, a pure matter of taste. It is extremely bloody, with realistic battle sequences that are not for the squeamish.
The plot follows a non-commissioned officer (Centurion), acted by the wonderful Michael Fassbender. Long a fighter of Picts (he knows their language), he survives an attack on an outpost and is rescued by the 9th, who are about to make war on the Picts. They are led by the incredible Dominic West (of The Wire), a charismatic general who has led his men to glory in Spain and is now establishing them in Britain; he is a gifted brute, but extremely popular with the men, from whom he rose by talent. Their scout is Olga Kurilenko (yes, a Bond girl), a mute and mysterious young Pict.
After the quick decimation of the 9th, Fassbender and a handful of survivors seek to rescue the general by duty, deep in Pict Scotland. Upon failure and an unfortunate murder, they must flee for their lives while an elite corps of Pict warriors pursue them with a blood oath of vengeance. At their head is a killer of singular talent, whose family was brutalized and executed before her eyes, then she was raped and left for dead. As described, "she is an empty vessel that can only be filled with Roman blood." When you see her, you believe it. I will not reveal what happens, only to say that it is acted to utter perfection.
There has been much criticism of the Romans as "good guys" in this film. I think it is far more subtle than that: no one is good, no one bad, they are all just striving to live the way they want, in accordance with their traditions. The Picts are genuinely savage warriors, but the reasons for their ruthless ferocity are completely clear: the Romans brutilized them in unspeakable ways as demonstrated more than once. For their part, the Romans are simple soldiers, part of a military machine the likes of which the world had never known. They are not good guys, they just are what they are: disciplined killers who will follow their leaders to the death for duty and hopefully glory. They are tougher beyond imagination, with their own codes of honor, though clearly one of the survivors is a sociopath. Another much criticized plot incident is the girl and love story. I suppose you could say it is unrealistic, but what the heck, it is a movie. To me, it was believable and moving (in however a superficial way you might want). Roman political machinations are also surprising, believable, and subtle.
This is not the kind of thing a pedant like me should pick apart. It is just a darn good story that completely absorbed me for 2 viewings. I will certainly watch it again. Warmly recommended.
91 of 107 people found the following review helpful
When I first discovered director Neil Marshall, I was an instant fan. In the horror genre, he did some solid work with the satisfying werewolf tale "Dog Soldiers" and the sublimely staged "The Descent" (which I know has its detractors, but for me was one of the most entertaining films of its year). The "Mad Max" retread "Doomsday" was an inevitable disappointment--but didn't dispel the notion that, at least, Marshall had a visual flair. I was intrigued to see him wander into "Gladiator" type territory with "Centurion" because the man can stage one heck of a battle. While the film, which is certainly better than "Doomsday," has a lot going for it--sadly, it ends up missing the mark. My guy reaction as I turned to my friend at the end was "Man, I wanted to like that much more than I did!"
I was genuinely and actively rooting for "Centurion" to be more wholly satisfying--so I guess that's a positive comment in and of itself. First off, the film looks absolutely incredible. The sweeping countryside and mountainous terrain as the camera pans across is breathtaking. The battle sequences are alive and bloody--not as dreary as some recent higher profile epics. The film sounds fantastic with a pulsing orchestration that fits the film beautifully. But the film's greatest asset is its star Michael Fassbender. A sensation in the art house favorite "Hunger," Fassbender claims leading man status with ease. His grounded physicality and intelligence shine through--at times, you think that he's smarter than the material he's been dealt.
The film covers the period of A.D. 117 when Roman troops were engaged in a struggle and trying to advance upon the the Picts in the Scottish highlands. The Picts employed guerilla tactics to hold the Romans off for 20 years. I won't, but could, debate historical accuracy in the film, but it is clearly meant to be an adventure yarn and not a historical treatise. However, the film seems to want us to identify with the Romans and brand the Picts as the villains when all they wanted to do was defend their land from being conquered. Not so bad in my book. My main issues with the film is that sometimes the screenplay can be conveniently silly. Several times the Picts don't finish off the stragglers after the epic battle by choice ("oh, just let him bleed"). Their guerilla camp is invaded by not one, but about 6, Romans soldiers in a rescue attempt--not very alert for guerillas! And a tracker who could trail soldiers for hundreds of wilderness miles couldn't find them in a one room cabin! These are but a few examples that had me scratching my head.
I won't even discuss the unnecessary twist ending or the tacked-on romance, I'll just say that "Centurion" ended up losing some of my good will. I'd probably still recommend the film as light entertainment, especially if you put your brain on hold, but I wanted it to be great! But look for Fassbender elsewhere--he's going to be big (I hope)! KGHarris 08/10
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
Centurion is your formulaic hack and slash movie, but Michael Fassbender (he played the British leftenant in Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds) steals the show here. The movie is set in Britain during Roman rule and just prior to the construction of Hadrian's Wall. Pict tribes and barbarians are constantly skirmishing with Roman troops, raiding border towns and attacking forts. Neil Marshall explores a fictitious version of events to explain the disappearance and demise of Legio IX Hispana. While the real 9th legion may have suffered a defeat by Boudica, queen of the Iceni, we're treated to an interesting version wherein the entire legion (led in a brief appearance by Dominic West) is decimated while fighting the Picts, leaving a few lone survivors who band together to fight guerrilla style in order to maintain their survival.
It is here that Fassbender shines; he is charismatic as the de facto leader of the surviving band of Roman soldiers cum guerrillas. Liam Cunningham is one of the other recognizable actors in the band of soldiers, and he plays the usual gruff veteran soldier, just as he did in Clash of the Titans. The rest of the soldiers are largely unknowns, well, at least to this American viewer. Imogen Poots (28 Weeks Later) makes an interesting appearance as a witch, and the witch storyline feels strangely out of place in the movie. The witch is more of an afterthought in an effort to provide some romantic interest to Fassbender. The plot is predictable, but the movie is a guilty pleasure. I'm surprised they were able to equip as many Roman soldier extras as they did in lorica segmentata. Too bad the pila are used incorrectly; it seems Hollywood (I'm looking at you too Gladiator) never gets it right.
For those of you concerned about violence, yes, this movie shows Roman-style warfare in all its brutal, gladius glory. CG blood abounds, heads are bashed, limbs detached, and abdomens disemboweled. One scene with a deer's intestines strangely reminded me of the tauntaun scene from Empire Strikes Back.
Overall, an impressive job for just a $10 million budget.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2011
This film received absolutely no promotion of which I am aware. In fact, I only heard of it from previews attached to other DVD's, which looked interesting, so I ordered it from Netflix. I was very pleasantly surprised.....it was excellent, an easy 4 stars.
The entire movie was filmed on locations in Scotland that alternated between breathtaking beauty and bleak desolation, and were a completely accurate setting for the story. The plot centers around a mythical 9th Roman Legion which supposedly marched into the wilderness of Britain to subjugate the Picts, a wild, indigenous group of "barbarians", and were never heard of again. The plot of the movie is entirely fictitious, created by writer-director Neil Marshall to explain the disappearance, and he succeeds beautifully with an intricate and fascinating story providing non-stop action centering around several key figures on both sides.
Dominic West, portraying a fierce Roman general, is the male standout, and the magnificent Olga Kurylenko as a mute and supernaturally competent Pict tracker is riveting. Michael Fassbender, the "hero" is excellent, but somewhat understated in comparison. His ability to survive repeated harrowing and potentially lethal encounters is the backbone of the movie, and is impressive without seeming too contrived.
The action scenes are suitably gory, with decapitations and blood spray worthy of Spartacus Blood and Sand, and in an unusual concession to reality, people who get injured....stay injured, and do not magically appear in perfect health in the next scene. When frail Olga's character destroys big, powerful men in hand-to-hand combat, it does strain credibility just a bit, but I have come to appreciate strong female action characters far more than the boring old convention that women in action and horror movies are present simply to be helpless, saved by men, and to scream a lot.
In conclusion, speaking as a fan of this genre, with fairly high standards and absolutely no patience for mundane garbage, I highly recommend this movie. It is well conceived, beautifully photographed, skillfully acted, fast paced, and very, very entertaining.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2010
I will never understand movie critics. Every New York paper trounced this film when it was released grousing about Romans having British accents and attacking it as mindless entertainment. Hey, every epic cannot be Stanley Kubrick's 'SPARTACUS" or Ridley Scott's 'GLADIATOR' but if you're looking for a rousing adventure film, look no further. These critics should have stuck with the countless bathroom humor comedies and inane human dramas populating the theaters as of late and leave the action movie genre to the people who appreciate them. Neil Marshall's latest film 'CENTURION' is a relentless experience from the first frame of film projected to the last and you would have to be a block of wood not to be effected by its intensity. Based on a true story about the ninth Roman Legion which disappeared in Scotland in the realm of the Picts on their campaign of conquest, it shows the survivors struggling against the terrain and the cunning of the ultimate Pict tracker to get back home. You've read the reviews contained within this release space in Amazon.com so I won't go on but I will tell you that the action is electrifying with the standout being Olga Kurylenko (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) in a malevolent performance as Etain, the voiceless Pict tracker who never stops her pursuit of the Roman survivors. The filmmakers pull no punches in the realism of the battle scenes and fight sequences , yes, heads are lopped off when they meet a sharp blade and body harm does occur when confronted with arrows,axes and fire so be prepared for a bloody time. Marshall balances how we feel about both Roman and Pictish sides showing the futility of war and invading territories which should not be invaded, hell, he shows the Romans attacking their own men because they are wearing Pict clothing. Comments on the acting of Michael Fassbinder and Dominic West as being passionless and wooden are as legion as the Romans but I think they are perfect showing the way they probably were, arrogant and honorable to their last breath. Magnolia Home Entertainment has released a crisp transfer with excellent 5.1 Dolby Digital EX which was beautifully separated on my sound system and contains a great audio commentary by the director and crew, deleted scenes which show why they were excised for they would have slowed the film down and five behind the scenes featurettes on the cast, locations, and cinematography. Many may conceive this film as mindless eye candy but Director/Writer Neil Marshall has created and produced an intense, nerve wracking 98 minutes of celluloid and should be comfortable in knowing that 'CENTURION" is a cult classic ready to explode.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 31, 2011
and indeed he does speak.This Centurion being Quintus Dias played in the film by Michael Fassbender . Centurion is the tale of the mysterious 9th Legion of Rome who vanished in what is now known as Scotland around the year AD 117. The film opens with Dias escaping capture of the Picts the violent and fierce tribe that control the area now known as Great Brittan . This era was defined by the aggressive army of the Roman empire.They thought that all of Europe and whatever else was out there should be ruled by them. So naturally the Romans took to invading other countries and establishing ruling governments there.They found the Picts most troublesome as their leader Gorlacon( Ulrich Thomsen) utilized tactics that the Romans were ill prepared for. So once Dias is rescued by a Roman patrol and reports what has happened a decision is made to send the 9th Legion to eliminate and subjugate the Picts once and for all.The legion is lead by General Titus Virilus ( Dominic West) a proud and beloved leader of the Roman army. They decide to use a former Pict as guide to the area.This Pict is named Etain and is played by Olga Kurylenko .It's believed that she's pledged her loyalties to Rome even though she is mute.So the 9th legion heads into Pict territory where they are set up in a trap by Etain. A fierce battle is waged and the Picts come out on top.General Virilus is captured and brought back to Gorlacon. Somehow Dias survives yet again an encounter with the Picts.He leads a small group of 7 surviving Romans on a dual mission.One to rescue General Virilus and second get who ever is left out of Pict land and back to Rome.That is the gist of the rest of the film in a nutshell.Dias and company encounter treacherous weather and other dangers in a savage land.And of course Gorlacon sanctions Etain to search for the survivors and kill them . Etain is like an old world version of the Terminator she will not stop hunting the Romans unless she herself dies. The fleeing Romans try to stay ahead of Etain and her small army thus staying alive and having a chance to make it back home. Along the way they do encounter one ally a Pict exile named Arianne (Imogem Poots) who was exiled because the rest of the Picts believe she practice magic.The film is quite suspenseful and very violent and gory under the direction of Neil Marshall. Mr.Marshall also directed 2 other films that I like Dog Soldiers and The Descent. This film here would be his biggest undertaking using a much bigger cast and creating another world using both sets and the natural wonders of Scotland. Add in the fact that Fassbenser is an up and coming star who's been in a bunch of films as has Dominic West .In fact both were in 300 together a film not unlike Centurion.Ms.Kurylenko was also well known for her role in the Daniel Craig Bond Film Quantum of Solace. The film is beautifully shot you feel cold watching the actors trudging up snow covered mountains.The acting is first rate by all 3 leads and Poots and Thomsen are good in their roles as well. A quick note that Mr.Marshall is a big supporter of strong women in his films.I wouldn't say he's a feminist but all of his work contains at least 1 if not more strong female leads.Heck the Descent was a film with a group of women in a cave against cave monsters. Etain is a beautiful and fierce fighter not someone to mess with. So if you are a fan of films like Gladiator,Spartacus and 300 then you most likely will eat up Centurion as well.I look forward to seeing more from Neil Marshall in the years to come.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 13, 2010
This movie is a me-too movie attempting to capitalize off the success of pseudo histories such as Robin Hood and Arthur. My first objection to the movie is the font they chose to write the subtitles, locations, and plot points. It was difficult to read on my analog TV, especially when they opt for white on a pale blue background using an ancient looking font that is difficult to decipher in the first place. Now the reason why we have subtitles is for the Picts, who are native of Northern Britain. They don't speak English, but the Romans speak 21st century English, including one soldier with a British accent. "Sorry mate, but orders are orders," he says as he slices a Pict throat. OH PLEASE! If the Picts don't speak modern English, don't try to make it realistic with subtitles only to have the Romans speak English. The language spoken by the Picts is actually unknown.
A Roman governor wanting to make a name for himself, opts to send the 9th Roman legion into the Pict stronghold in order to kill their king. The Roman governor uses a female Pict slave (whose parents were murdered by Romans, with her being raped as a child and her tongue cut out) to guild them into Pict territory. Guess how that works out Scooby-Doo? The ninth legion is wiped out except for the general who is taken captive and 7 Romans (who look more like an international group). They opt to do the stupid thing and attempt to rescue the general in the heart of a Pict camp. After they fail at that, they are hunted by Picts. For those who like killing, blood, urine, and violence this is your film. The overly simplistic plot, lack of good characterization, making us identify with the bad guys who we know will lose, poor attempts at humor, makes this the least enjoyable of the pseudo histories to date. They spent a lot of money making this film and wasted it on an inferior script.
The story of the missing ninth Roman legion being destroyed by the Picts is legend. It actually got transferred to Judea.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2014
We rented this movie one night when we had nothing else to watch and found ourselves pulled into it immediately! The main character, Centurion, is very well acted (especially for these types of movies) and the soldiers have some funny lines that give some comic relief between the drama and blood bath battles. I love how they weave the story as you watch, briefly putting you in the middle of the story at the very beginning of the film, pulling you into the main character as he narrates his story for you, then taking you to the start of the chaos you know is about to come.
The battles are ruthless between the Pict tribes of the Celtic region (modern day Scotland) and the 9th Roman legion that actually fought in the Celtic area at that time, and fell off the history books. No one knows exactly what happened to them, I assume this movie tries to take a crack at it. Like any movie, it can't please everyone, but I found it entertaining and have watched it again with friends and family and they have all loved it! I had to write this review b/c a 3.5 star rating does not do this film justice in my humble opinion. Hope you enjoy it too!