Centurion (2010) Written and Directed by Neil Marshall
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"My name is Quintus Dias, I am a soldier of Rome, and this neither the beginning nor the end of my story."
In 117 A.D., the most brutal front of the Roman Empire was the northern reaches of Britannia. The native Picts were a wild and savage lot, valuing freedom and family above all other considerations. They used their inhospitable land to their advantage, and being sent North of York was tantamount to a death sentence. Quintas Dias (Michael Fassbender) is the centurion for an outpost in this hostile and beautiful land. The Picts engage in guerilla war, emerging from the shadows, slitting a few throats, and fading away. In the morning, they count the dead, and continue on. Eventually, they overrun the weakened outpost, and Quintas Dias is spared because he speaks Gaelic.
He meets Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) leader of the Picts. His treatment at their hands is less than cordial. But he manages to escape.
Meanwhile, General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West) has been ordered to deal with the Pictish problem once and for all, and is ordered to take the 9th Legion north, find Gorlacon, and kill him. To accomplish this, they have a secret weapon, Etain (Olga Kurylenko), a Brigantian scout. Mute, fierce, and almost supernaturally competent, Etain leads the Legion north.
And it is Etain's keen senses that pick up Quintas Dias' escape, and flight, and at the last instant, saves him from his Celtic captors. So the Centurion is now part of the Army to finally subjugate what will one day be Scotland. If this man did not have bad luck, he would have none.
It is a trap; the 9th is slaughtered, and when the dust clears, Quintas Dias is the ranking officer, General Virilus has been captured, and a mere handful of survivors are left. Quintas Dias must try to free his general, and run back for the safety of the south with the vengeful Picts hot on their trail, led by the wrathful Etain.
This movie is basically one long chase, over some of the most beautiful if bleak country side envisioned (does one have to be Celtic to see the beauty in bleakness?) The cinematography of Sam McCurdy is lovely; a palette of soft blues, greys, greens and browns, where the only warm colour is the red of blood, and the gold of a lovely witch's hair. The harsh brutality of the soldier's life, the lands they run through, and the people that live there is an unrelenting force; brutality is the driving force of this movie.
And yet is also speaks to nobler things; loyalty, duty, courage. I found myself conflicted. The story if from the point of view of the Romans; the Celtic savages were the enemy. Yet, I am the scion of those same savages; I found myself rooting at times for the Picts. And that is a clue as to how caught up in this saga you will become. The Romans are mostly red shirts; you know they are doomed from the start. You don't learn their names, you assign them, the cook, the sergeant, the short-timer, the weasel, but their deaths catch you by surprise, as does their occasional survival. The Picts are much the same; the Archeress, the Bear, the Moustache. Etain is the real one. And much like Roman and the ancient world, it is a fight to the death.
Simple, unburdened with complexity, but far from simplistic or predictable, Centurion is a wonderful trip back to the bad old days when Civilization tried to rule the Scots, and failed.
This is part of foshizzlee's Foreign Film Write Off
The Glory That Was Rome
Spartacus: Gods of the Arena
Spartacus: Blood and Sand
Rome: Season One
Rome: Season Two
Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter
Oracle of the Dead
A Point of Law
A Gladiator Only Dies Once
Read all comments (1)
Movie Mood: Action Movie
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.