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This movie was entertaining and exceeded expectations. I love history
and am a history degree holder with an emphasis and ancient Indo
European culture. I'm not here to tear into this movie as a I felt it
was just fine, but rather try to deflect some "junk" history that some
people seem to throw into the mixed reviews. Please, if you're going to
try to add your own mish-mash of history, at least make sure it's
That's right, I'm talking about you "Russ-was-here". Firstly, your review is off base on many levels, I'll try to answer some of those in a light hearted manner...
The fact that you consider Braveheart to be a "factual" representation of history is laughable, by this alone we can't take you seriously in your review of this movie. William Wallace wasn't running around the battlefield in a kilt, hate to break it to you.
You noted the wide variety of accents here. Is this shocking to you that actors from around the world took part in a movie, and that they all had different accents? The Pict language has been dead for quite some time, while there are rumors that the last confirmed speaker of Pict died in the 1950s, are we to expect the actors in this movie all speak ancient dialects of dead languages? get real (yes, that applies to Latin as well).
Perhaps your biggest mistake in assuming history of this movie is your statement: "Then comes the fight scenes and complete absence of interesting Roman tactics, when attacked and flanked on a long narrow path they simply form a 1 man thick shield wall and wait..." If you had actually studied Roman history (which I'm certain at this juncture you have not even cracked open a Tacitus or Pliny or Martial or any other Roman historian) then you would know the Battle of Teutoberg Wald quite well. In fact the battle that takes place in this movie is a near depiction of what the Germans did to the Romans when they destroyed 3 Roman legions while walking through the Black Forest. Ah yes, some of us actually DO study history. The Romans had no choice but to march nearly single file through a road, when they realized they were flanked on both sides (the line was 14 miles long, thus the battle took place over a 14 mile stretch) the Romans had no choice but to form up as best they could in the road. This proved devastating as it forced Romans to fight hand to hand combat against German soldiers who were more skilled in the area of hand to hand combat.
You mention that the Picts were known for their chariot warfare. Celts (Picts were a Celtic people) were well known for chariot warfare, as were many peoples in the Roman world, as you can see in this movie (especially the battle scene) using chariots would be quite a stupid move as they were in dense forest (use your brain, boy). As we can see with the final battle between Boudicca and Rome, using chariots was not always advantageous. In fact Boudicca sealed her army's fate by following an infantry charge with chariots (effectively crushing her infantry between Roman shields and Iceni chariots).
You also mention they fought naked. Indeed, many Indo Europeans fought in the buff, but that doesn't mean they all walked around in the buff all the time. They were dressed like Vikings you say? You have an odd preconceived notion of what the Vikings dressed like, personally I saw no Pict wearing chainmail (something Normans and Vikings were well known for). Furthermore it's a myth to believe that all Celts, Germans or any other Indo Europeans always fought naked. Many barbarian tribes were incredibly well equipped by 117AD as armor proved to be more and more of a necessity. We also see that Germanic and Celtic armor had a direct influence on Roman armor (Romans borrowed their helmet style from the Gauls for example). As for the movie? It's setting is in the winter, it would make no sense for Picts to be in the buff all the time. This is common sense.
Is this overkill? Yup. But I find your post to be (how did you put it?) completely devoid of historical facts. Does this movie have clichés of the time? Yup. Is the acting Oscar worthy? Probably not. Should we sit here and cry about it? nope. Just enjoy the movie. Nobody here is claiming this is a spitting image of 117AD in the northern UK (shocking, I know), but your post is ill informed and misleading.
Anyways, this is an entertaining movie and you certainly get the feel for the day. Engaging and exciting, certainly worth a view.
This is in direct response to davidfurlotte's fairly asinine
First of all, if you're going to claim to be an authority on these things, do some research. In practically every interview, Marshall made it very clear that the film was based on a myth, a legend, nothing more. He never once tried to claim that this was in any way a true story.
Also, where did you get that his Dad is a history professor?! He said his Dad loved history, and that's all. Again, do your research.
Finally, did you actually watch the battle? The Romans were stretched out in a long column for miles, surrounded on both sides. How do you move out of the way of fireballs when you've got men on both sides of you who are also trying to get out of the way of fireballs? You just end up with men piling into each other, utter chaos, and still achieving what the Picts intended in the first place, which was to break the Roman line. And since the Romans where back to back, if you did get out of the way, you're just allowing the fireballs to rolls into the backs of the troops defending the opposite flank. With that many fireballs coming in from both sides, into a densely packed column of Romans, there simply wasn't anywhere for them to go. The Romans were trained to hold the line. That's where their strength lay, in discipline and formation, and this is how the Picts (and the Germanic tribes) used their biggest strength against them.
The reason I defend this film is because I worked on it myself. And if it made a few mistakes along the way, like using the wrong kind of spears, I know it's because the budget was so tight they couldn't afford enough Pilum's for the number of troops they had. I know this sounds unbelievable, but it's absolutely true. This films entire budget was about the size of the costume department budget on Gladiator!
To make another simple comparison, on Braveheart they had 7 weeks to shoot just the Battle of Stirling. On Centurion we had 7 weeks to shoot the entire film, battles included. For the scene involving the fireballs, we had 3 days. So it's to be expected that through the almost constant barrage of compromise, a few factual mistakes may slip through the net. As filmmakers we do take exceptional pride in our work, and we'd love to have the time and the money to get everything absolutely perfect, but that's just not the reality of low budget filming in the UK. In the end, we do our best with what we've got.
Centurion is a great film, and I suspect it's going to be totally underrated by the cinema-going public. I saw it at my local Odeon last night, the only cinema in town showing it, and I strongly suspect it won't be on next week. This is an example of a really good British film from a director with a strong pedigree not getting the kind of publicity and public interest that is frequently given to the most heinous rubbish that Hollywood can produce. Granted, many people don't share my director-centric view of forthcoming features; I'm prepared to risk getting my fingers burned occasionally in avidly chasing any films made by a select bunch of my favourite directors, but my approach is usually rewarded with excellence, like Centurion. In structure it is a very simple story, beautifully shot and honestly told. The bloody battles are very realistic - you get a good feel for what it might actually have been like to fight hand-to-hand in ancient times, frantic and deadly. The characters are simply drawn, and develop through their actions rather than words (quite literally in the case of Olga Kurylenko's "Etain"). There is good and bad on both sides of the conflict, which is true to every war in human history. Ultimately, it offers a quite believable scenario to explain the mysterious historical disappearance of the 9th Legion in Hibernia.
I'm a fan of the culture and history of early Britain, so my opinion
may be tainted a bit, but I really enjoyed this flick. It had a
surprisingly good story and was not just a blood and guts war fest. It
appears that the movie may be based on Rosemary Sutcliff's Book 'The
Eagle of the Ninth', in which the Ninth Legion is wiped out in Scotland
in AD 117. In any case, there is controversy and mystery as to what
really happened to the 9th, and that makes a setting for a good tale.
There is just enough history to make the story plausible, for example
the creation of Hadrian's wall is depicted.
Neither side is portrayed as the "good guys" or the "bad guys", and to me, that brought a sense of realism with it. This is a bloody film, with heads rolling and a plethora of fighting, so don't bring the kiddies. I watched it On Demand, but I might go see it again in the theater.
When the final credits were rolling my regular cinema-going counterpart
observed "that was one of the most outwardly violent films I've seen
since Kill Bill". That's not far from the truth. Limbs are hacked clean
off, stomachs are regularly impaled and the claret fluid sprays
endlessly. Though the major difference is where Tarantino's homage to
the old chop-socky movies from Eastern cinema is cartoonish in its
bloody visuals, Centurion is anything but tongue-in-cheek; here the
blood, sweat and tears seep into the muddy vistas and bucolic rivers of
Great Britain to intensify the atmosphere.
Director Neil Marshall (The Descent) has crafted a gritty movie that at its core is a simple 'cat and mouse' tale and a highly entertaining one at that but becomes much more thanks to the efficacious work from all the cast and crew. Marshall himself executes a few impressive sequences, the most outstanding being the initial ambush on the Ninth Legion, showing once again he knows how to stretch a small budget with minimalistic techniques and a passionate approach. Director of photography Sam McCurdy provides a suitably grimy and grainy look that, although at times is too dim, sets the ideal tone for the film. Perhaps Marshall should have monitored the editing closer though, Chris Gill's frenetic cutting very nearly ruins a couple of the fight scenes.
Major Hollywood star in the waiting Michael Fassbender (played the German-impersonating British Lieutentant in Inglourious Basterds) is undoubtedly the standout among the acting contingent. As the titular soldier, Fassbender makes for a charismatic leading man that convinces in both the physical and dramatic elements of the role. I eagerly wait to see what he does as the young Magneto in the upcoming X-Men prequel. Elsewhere The Wire alumni Dominic West is rough around the edges as the gruff General Virilus, Olga Kurylenko is positively bad-ass as the mute, monomaniacal warrior hell-bent on revenge and BBC favourite David Morrisey adds clout in his supporting role of Bothos.
A grubby, gory delight.
4 out of 5 (1 - Rubbish, 2 - Ordinary, 3 - Good, 4 - Excellent, 5 - Classic)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a straight forward tale of a band of Roman soldiers being
hunted down by Pict warriors in the stunning surroundings of the
Whilst the dialogue and script won't exactly win any Oscars, the film was entertaining enough with plenty of blood & guts fighting scenes.
Olga Kurylenko was actually quite convincing in her portrayal of a brutal ice cold warrior, much better than Keira Knightley's portrayal of a female warrior in King Arthur. Perhaps Olga not having to utter a word in the entire film as she portrays a Pict who had her tongue cut out was a clever way to make her character more cold and mysterious.
I wouldn't quite go as far as one of the previous posters who describes the first major battle scene on a par with the opening scene in "Gladiator". Indeed some of the small criticisms I would level would be the use of very fast action shots during some of the fight scenes, i.e the camera motion is faster than your eye can register, think opening car chase in "Quantom of Solace" and you get the picture.
What really stands out in the film though is the stunning back drop of the Scottish mountains, It's like "Highlander" all over again only better!
Centurion, doesn't carry the "epic" status as other movies like "Gladiator","Braveheart" or "Kingdom of heaven", no it's on a much smaller scale and doesn't really spend too much time on character development on either the Pict or Roman sides. I suppose in a way it helps this film as it doesn't get bogged down in lengthy dialogue, but concentrates more on action.
Whilst this film won't score too highly on the originality stakes, it's a good effort in an all too neglected genre.
This movie was relatively unheard of when a friend of mine gave a copy of it. I was skeptical since it was not from Hollywood, no big stars etc. However, it proved I was wrong. This is not a masterpiece indeed; but it was able to get me a thrilling ride from beginning to end. To make it short, I would say this is a combination of "BEHIND ENEMY LINES" scenario at the pace and editing of "BOURNE ULTIMATUM" set at the backdrop of "KING ARTHUR". It's true that script does not focus much on character development but it does not cause any trouble in enjoying this action-adventure. As one reviewer has mentioned, I agree that portrayal of a female warrior by Olga Kurylenko is much more realistic and successful than the similar role played by Keira knightly in "King Arthur". It is really sad that movies like this are not given adequate publicity since this is much better than most big budget Hollywood movies that are being hyped inappropriately.
A group of Roman soldiers who survived an ambush are chased
relentlessly by a hunting party of Picts. As with every other movie by
Neil Marshall (The Descent, Doomsday) this big screen epic attempts to
mix the grittiness of European filmmaking with the entertainment values
of Hollywood movie-making. And as is becoming signature with this
director, Centurion pursues his tradition to feature very strong and
memorable female characters.
While it is Centurion Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) who is the protagonist as the somewhat reluctant leader of our heroes, the most memorable character on screen is Etain, a Brigantian tracker played by Olga Kurylenko. Etain's tribe was massacred by the Romans and she took refuge with the Picts. Her backstory is a powerful device that explains all the hatred she has for Romans and the length she will go to exact revenge. Neil Marshall makes great use of actress Kurylenko and she literally eats the screen in almost every scene she is in, despite her character being mute. Etain reaches iconic status as far as I'm concerned, much like Karl Vreski (Die Hard).
The actual plot, despite its historical context, is less Gladiator and more Apocalypto. Several battles are extremely gritty, entering gory territory as blood flows. There are a lot of CGI sequences mixed with traditional effects but they do not detract from the experience too much. Quintus' bunch of survivors are portrayed by a group of effective actors but the movie's short length prevents much characterization. Where Marshall is more effective is in the portrayal of the Picts. In very few words, several characters stand out throughout the movie.
Everything is fairly entertaining but the movie never quite reaches classic epic status due to its short length and several incongruities. For instance, I still don't understand why two healthy and armed soldiers would run away from wolves, nor why wolves would pursue them (that simply flies in the face of anything we know about the behavior of wolves). Etain is also ordered to severe the heads of the men she is chasing but conveniently omits certain characters so that they survive their injuries, which makes no sense and is transparent bad writing. Likewise, when the Romans have a chance to steal or kill the Picts' horses, they simply ignore this opportunity. These plot holes add up pretty fast and detract from our experience, turning what could have been a classic into just a great pop corn flick.
But an entertaining pop corn flick it is, despite its faults! I wish Marshall would be slightly less ambitious, as it seems he is at his best working on smaller scale movies but he still has a knack to shoot fun films and create engaging characters. Special kudos for not glorifying the Roman empire and especially, for not portraying the Picts as clear-cut villains. Although the structure of the film firmly puts the Picts in the "baddies" slot, there are several hints and a lot of subtext that, on the contrary, showcases the Roman empire as bloodthirsty invaders, plotting backstabbers and savages themselves.
Every amateur of sword epic will want to see this one at least once, possibly several times.
Centurion is directed by Neil Marshall who also wrote the screenplay.
It stars Dominic West, Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, Liam
Cunningham, Noel Clarke, Riz Ahmed & Imogen Poots.
Britain, 117 AD and the Romans are struggling to contain the Picts in Caledonia. The Roman Governor sends in their best army, the Ninth Legion. But they are victims of a trap and are forced to flee on foot across the mountainous terrain with the vengeful Picts in hot pursuit. Can they stay alive and make it to the border?
One thing you know you are going to get with a Neil Marshall film is blood and guts. Be it squadies facing off against werewolves, pot-holing babes grappling with hungry Gollum types, or a secret unit sent in to quarantined Scotland to fend off cannibal punk rockers; Marshall likes to pile on the grue. With his latest, Centurion, he continues in this vein. Sadly that's about all there is as the talented director appears to be getting a little carried away with himself and forgetting to put some substance into his characters. What promises to be a telling historical epic anti-war movie ends up being one long chase movie. Only pausing for breath for intermittent blood letting and the now obligatory love interest sub-plot. Oh it's fun, very much so, and the visuals coupled with the excellently constructed fight sequences don't waste a penny spent. But as a whole it just doesn't work, it's more a collection of set pieces linked together by visceral pleasures under the guise of being a take on a folklore story.
However, there is no denying the commitment to the genre from Marshall. Centurion is often thrilling and brutal into the bargain, so as long as you don't require any semblance of depth then it will surely entertain you. While he has assembled a very admirable cast of British & Irish thesps and put them thru a very tough shoot up in the Scottish hills. The craft is there, from director and stars, just no decent script to flesh it out. Oh and do we really need Roman soldiers saying the F word to show us how hard they are? Coming after Doomsday flopped (personally I think it's a whole bunch of fun), Marshall is at the crossroads of his career. Once the indie darling of Britain he's been courted by Hollywood and needs to make big decisions. You can only homage so much in your favoured genres (here he nods to Gladiator, The Warriors and even Zulu) before it gets to be boring. So is it time to let someone else write now? Also if he must stay mainstream then he has to get the budget to do the job properly; witness the digital blood used for the first fight sequences, laughably bad and able to take you right out of the film.
At times ridiculous and over the top, Centurion only works well as a pure action flick. Which of course will find an audience. But director and cast are better than this, as an effective story is bogged down by lack of narrative heart that in turn is most likely hidden by arterial blood. Lots of it. 5/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'd admit that the films of Neil Marshall's have been quite right up my
alley, with a mishmash of genres all done with an excessively violent
treatment, but it does go to show that relying too much on the usual
will bring forth a stale feeling, that Marshall may not have anything
more to offer other than to pepper his films with plenty of hacked
limbs in a straight forward action adventure
Set in 117AD, Neil Marshall's story pits the Roman empire against the guerrilla Picts, who have halted the Roman invasion so much so that Rome decides on a last push. To the organized troops of Roman centurions, the Picts with their unorthodox techniques have the upper hand in a David and Goliath pattern, that it's up to Dominic West's General Virilus to lead an army, and with the help of Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) who has escaped from the Picts, to show them the way. That sets the premise of an otherwise ordinary film that's focused on its battle sequences, and has a very simple, two phase narrative to waltz through.
One of the draws here is of course Michael Fassbender's presence. Of 300 and Eden Lake fame, he brings forth a sense of vulnerability to a warrior's role, bent on trying to keep alive than to go all out to kill. He leads Virilus' surviving men of 6 to a rescue mission, before turning tails and having the next half of the film centered on their escape back to safe haven, all the while being tracked by Olga Kurylenko's Etain, a mute Pict scout who's an excellent tracker.
In some ways, the story had resembled like a distant cousin of the magnificent seven, where a rag tag team of surviving Roman centurions get cobbled together for a mission to rescue their beloved General. And I mean really rag tag since they have a cook amongst their ranks. It's an offensive maneuver first, before going all defensive because of the lack of skills, and numerical advantage and savagery that the Picts pose. Olga Kurylenko chews up her scenes even as she's more clothed than her previous films, and gets plenty of physical action (with weapons that is) to show she's no pushover for action sequences.
Strangely enough, a last minute romantic subplot gets thrown in which sort of spoils the film because it firmly roots itself as a finale plot development point, leaving little surprise for its hurried ending since you know just where and how the film would end. Like a typical Marshall film, there are tons of carefully crafted scenes that are bloody violent, such as smashing someone's head to a pulp against a tree or a full on ugly beheading. There's only one sequence that will stand out in the entire film, and that's a massive ambush against a full battalion of Roman soldiers, which is one-off and the only one done on grand scale, setting the scene for plenty of screen violence with unflinching decapitations of miscellaneous body parts.
Fans will find this an enjoyable action adventure, but it doesn't offer anything much nor new to win over new fans.
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