Apparently back in the day the Romans got it in their mindset they wanted to rule the entire planet Earth which has led them to this dingy, cold, dank place where the sun rarely shines, that we know as Great Britain. The problem for the Romans is that the people that inhabit this land, known as the Picts, really like their miserable lives and don’t want to make their lives any more miserable by suffering under Roman rule, which has ultimately resulted in a twenty year plus standoff. Think along the lines of Afghanistan and Russia and you have what that Romans are dealing with around the time of 117 A.D. This historical scenario is the basis for Neil Marshall’s latest film, the wildly bloody and violent ‘Centurion’, which is amovie that is entertaining while at the same time as erratic as any movie we’ve experienced in recent memory.
Michael Fassbender narrates as the character of Quintus Dias, a high ranking soldier in Caesar’s army informing us on the way the Pict’s operate. The Pict’s are masters of guerilla warfare, striking at night from the shadows when one least expects it. We observe this particular fighting style early on as a Roman soldier perched high on the garrison wall takes a whiz only to have a spear thrust through his gonad regions. Just so you know this is the kind of thing that you are signing up for if you choose to see this movie. Spears through the gonads. Outstanding.
After this particular Pict raid, Dias would be privileged to be the lone survivor where he is taken to meet the Pict number one warlord Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) who will introduce Dias to the Pict way of life by pissing on him, punching him the face repeatedly and slicing him. Somehow Dias escapes this madness.
Across town we meet super badass roman general Titus Virulus (Dominic West) who has been instructed by a magistrate that this war must end. He has been instructed to take his men and find Gorlacon and his guerilla troops and slaughter them all. To assist in this task the magistrate has assigned mute super badass who at the same time is sizzling hot, the tracker and guide Etain (Olga Kurylenko) to assist him in this task.
Dias has made his way to the General’s camp, joined up like the patriot he is and is following this tracker on this mission to end this war. Somebody really should’ve been keeping an eye on the hot, mute tracker. Seriously. Let’s just say that an army of hundreds has been magically transformed into legion of about eight. General Virulus, who is maintaining his badassery cred despite being in a really terrible situation, has one simple request of Dias… get his surviving men home.
While this sounds simple enough, these men are deep behind enemy lines, it is snowy and bitter cold, they are on foot, have few weapons and are being pursued by a relentless posse and the tracker from hell whose ‘empty soul can only be filled with Roman blood’. It is really not looking good. But Dias has a mission, get all of the General’s few surviving men home safely. I don’t want to spoil it for you but if by ‘all’ the general meant ‘just Dias’… then he totally fulfilled that mission.
We can start off by saying that, at least for us over here at the FCU, sitting through Centurion was an absolute joy. This isn’t much of a surprise for us because Neil Marshall hasn’t yet made a movie we haven’t found entertaining, even though ‘Doomsday’ felt like it kind of got away from him a little bit. Not the case with this film ‘Centurion’ even though it’s still not exactly the poster child for film focus or control. At its heart ‘Centurion’ is an action film, yes it has a historical backdrop and it is even somewhat epic in its scope, but this is an action movie and a well done one at that. The combat sequences are brutal, violent and bloody with an emphasis on decapitations… not always at the neck. When the movie transformed into a run-chase-hide film, the chase sequences were tense, paced lightning quick and exciting to watch. While the action was the true star of the movie it didn’t hurt Marshall to have a fine cast of accomplished actors driving this action with Michael Fassbender making for a solid heroic figure despite the fact his initial cause, this being the conquering and enslavement of a nation, is anything but heroic. Dominic West was fantastic while being almost unrecognizable as the badass General Virulus with veterans Liam Cunningham, David Morrisey and not so veteran Noel Clarke providing excellent support.
A couple of things though. Olga Kurylenko as a badass I’m not so sure about. She had her mad-on scowl pasted on throughout the entire movie, looked completely evil in her Viking makeup and she is plenty athletic but Olga is just so… feminine. Mind you I had the same issue with Angelina Jolie in ‘Salt’ in that you have these 105lb. incredibly attractive and feminine women kicking people in the chest and sending them flying across a room which was just hard for me to buy into. Kurylenko’s fight scenes were shot in such a quick, fast cut way to mask the fact, I’m guessing, that she’s is such a lady and not a warlord. To the contrary Axelle Carolyn, the director’s wife by the way, was far more convincing as a crazed badass lunatic… and she’s really pretty too so I’m thinking some people are more equipped than others to play Viking warrior badass bitches. And the narrative was all over place from a political drama, to a war epic segueing to a chase action flick until finally becoming, unbelievably, a love story. Crazy.
Ah but that’s just nitpicking. Great action, good performances, fantastic visuals, tight direction and we’d much rather have Olga Kurylenko in our movie than out of our movie. ‘Centurion’ was a complete winner for me.