In 2nd-century Britain, Roman fighter Quintas Dias (Michael Fassbender) is the lone survivor of a Pictish attack on a Roman frontier post. Eager for revenge, he joins the Ninth Legion — under General Virilus (Dominic West) — and journeys north on a mission to destroy the Picts. Writer-director Neil Marshall’s rousing sword-and-sandals adventure also stars Olga Kurylenko as the beautiful Pict warrior Etain.

Rating: 7 out of 10

It’s awfully hard to make an epic film about the Roman Empire after “Gladiator.” Ridley Scott really nailed the aura and feel of the hard life of the men of that period with his Academy Award-winning film. There’s a lot of people that don’t like Gladiator and felt it wasn’t worthy of the praise it received and I couldn’t disagree more. So, when I started watching “Centurion,” there was an “Oh no” feeling I had. Were they really going to try to compete with Ridley’s film? It sure felt that way for the first 30 minutes. Here we have an army, a general beloved by his men, and barbaric enemies of the north. Then, something great happened. The film took on a totally different approach more akin to Apocalypto. We have a tougher foe on horseback chasing down weaker men on foot in a game of cat and mouse as they try to get back to countrymen that don’t even want them. This approach really worked for me. I love the idea of intelligent warriors trying to figure out how to survive. It would not have been pulled off if not for the great direction from Neil Marshall who is quickly becoming one of the great secrets in film today. If you’re not familiar, he did an amazing job on “The Descent” as well as the underrated “Dog Soldiers.” Since those two films were horror, I was curious how he would handle a film of a different genre and feel and he seems totally comfortable here. Special attention must be paid to cinematographer Sam McCurdy who creates a beautiful sense of darkness and light through the lens. Almost every shot in this film is gorgeous.

If there’s a downside, the plot is pretty thin. While I did find some of the characters interesting, others were throwaways. Also, the progression of the story is hampered in parts by odd decisions that slow it down. Still, if you enjoy period epics with grisly violence, you’ll find a lot to like here.


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