I am a soldier of Rome! I will not yield!
Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) is the sole survivor of a Pict raid on his fort's garrison in 117 A.D. Britain. After reuniting with Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West) general of the 9th Roman Legion, who is on orders to find and kill Pict leader Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen), the men of the 9th are ambushed and slaughtered by a group of Pict warriors led by Etain (Olga Kurylenko) that leaves a handful of Romans alive. After learning that Titus was taken captive, Quintus and the six other survivors set on with the difficult task of rescuing the general and surviving the harsh environment that is just as fierce as the Picts themselves.
From the opening credits, done in a way I myself haven't seen before, I knew that "Centurion" was going to be something different. The tagline for "Centurion" is, "History is written in blood." Well... it's quite obvious that the script for this was written in the same manner. With the exception of maybe two other movies, "Centurion" is very nearly the bloodiest War/Action/Adventure movie I've ever seen. But fortunately director Neil Marshall handled the violence in a way that was realistic while simultaneously staying true to the unspoken rule of this genre. In fact, that's one of the things I enjoy so much about "Centurion"; the level of believability. So many other movies in this vein are so concerned with catering to the masses, that they throw away all sense of plausibility. Or they go the alternate route and present war in a "friendly" or "campy" way. A way that many would consider to be a polar opposite to what would really happen.
However, I feel like I should clarify that the level of violence isn't what drew me to seeing this movie. I've said something along this line before, but I don't advocate the senseless inclusion of violence for violence's sake. The same goes for swearing. Those types of "movies" have next to no place for me. If those tools, for that's what they are, are used in the proper way that helps accentuate either the overall story or the characters in a movie, then I'll try and enjoy whatever the particular movie may be.
Anyhow, back to the actual movie at hand.
The story of "Centurion", while almost painfully similar to that of "The Eagle", or God-forbid "The Last Legion", was done in a way that was... overall decent. Instead of using the "they all perished valiantly in battle" trope, mister Marshall toyed with the idea of a cover-up to attempt and hide Rome's shame instead. As refreshing as it was, that take, or the actors' and actresses' performances, wasn't enough to alleviate the ever-creeping feeling of slight monotony. There is one sequence that stands out to me, and that's when Quintus, Brick, and Bothos come across Arianne (Imogne Poots) and her hut. I gave a sigh of huge relief when she and Quintus didn't have the obligatory "you saved me, now let's have sex" moment.
I still remember when I first seeing 2007's "300" and wondering who that Spartan that did nearly all of the leaping and jumping was. Michael Fassbender was good in the role of Quintus Dias, showing us a soldier's firm resolve to survive no matter what may come. And while some of the other surviving soldiers were either one-note or just not worth paying attention to, Quintus proved to be relatively engaging. Unfortunately some of his scenes and or lines were a slight bit stilted, but not so awful that they took me completely out of the experience. I did like his opening and closing lines that could be interpreted as an opening for a future sequel, but did a much better job of bookending this movie.
The only other performances that proved noteworthy were those of Olga Kurylenko and Liam Cunningham. Olga's Etain was just as she was described in the movie; a she-wolf. Cold, fierce, and brutal, Etain's character and history were handled in a way that were very much within the bounds of possibility. I haven't seen her in much else, but Olga did a substantial job in portraying a woman who had come from disaster with an insatiable drive. One scene in particular, where she and her group of Picts finally tracks down and engages what's left of Quintus' group, gave the perfect window into who the character of Etain was; a tragic, broken girl who was created and dealt with by Romans.
Liam Cunningham's "Brick" won the title of "Biggest Badass" during that scene. Instead of handling his character in the habitual manner, after he was twice injured, he used both of those injuries to kill the Picts that gave them to him. It was a slight strain on the movie's believability at one point, but it wasn't done in an over-the-top way. Brick didn't keep on fighting after his second injury like some tank of a man. The only real surprise in "Centurion" was the appearance of Woodbury's own Governor. David Morrissey had put on some weight for his role in this movie because when I first saw him I almost didn't recognize him. I kept the sneaking susp*cion throughout the movie, and was finally vindicated when I saw his name in the closing credits, again done in a way that I didn't expect.
There were some other aspects I enjoyed, namely the choice of having a character look out for his own survival at the explicit expense of the men supposed to be his brothers in arms. As well as the inclusion of wolves, which honestly reminded me of "The Grey".
In the end, if you're looking for a fun, blood-soaked afternoon movie, I recommend you give "Centurion" a watch.
This was a review by tMG. Thanks very much for reading.