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Centurion movie poster

Centurion: Movie Review



Genre:
Action, Adventure
Rated: R
Directed by: Neil Marshall
Starring: Michael Fassbinder, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, David Morrissey, Ulrich Thomsen
Released by: Magnolia Pictures

In Short: Gory, realistic battle scenes and travel-postcard scenery cannot save this derivative tale that weirdly posits the Roman invaders of Britain as heroes.

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BEEN THERE, SEEN THIS

Just Who Are the Heroes Here?

Since when did invading armies become heroes? Apparently “Centurion” writer-director Neil Marshall did not get the memo, that the guys who try to take over someone else’s country while killing children along the way are definitely not the good guys.

But that’s the tale he’d like us to swallow in his latest film (“Dog Soldiers,” “The Descent” and “Doomsday” are his previous efforts), made all the odder by the fact that he is himself a Brit. For this is the story of the Roman invaders of Britain, set back in the 2nd Century, when Rome ruled the world. Struggling for years trying to conquer the proud Pict tribe of the harsh northern lands of Scotland, the Roman powers-that-be decide to send in the Ninth legion, a huge force, to subdue their strong enemy once and for all.

In a series of extremely gory fights, the Romans are badly thrashed, eventually leading to a small band of Centurions struggling to get back to their troops’ stronghold. And that’s when the film really devolves into a completely derivative mash-up of  “The Lord of the Rings,” with a large dose of “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” thrown in for good measure.

Movie still from Centurion Olga Kurylenko in Centurion

And that’s also when the fundamental problem of “Centurion” is most obvious. We’re supposed to be rooting for the Romans, right? But as the Picts chase them, they are led by a mute female tracker whom, we are told, had her tongue cut out after being raped repeatedly by the Romans, and watched them kill her parents. And we are supposed to be on the side of the Romans here? What? This after they murder the Pict king’s young son, too. How?

Consequently, as the chase ensues, we are cheering for her to win, but that’s not what director Marshall has in mind. So in the end, we’re left feeling mystified as to why we should feel any positive emotions about any of the “heroic” Centurions; or about this film in general. It does look pretty, as they race across the Scottish landscape, but that alone does not a good movie make.

Reviewed by Jenny Peters



PCT072010
(Updated: 08/26/10 CT)

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