Neil Marshall has again been denied the success he deserves as Centurion breezes in and out of a select couple of cinemas in Melbourne in the space of two weeks. Indeed, the timing of this review will be too late for many to catch it in the cinema, but I simply cannot ignore the quality of this man’s work.
Of course, his last film, Doomsday, wasn’t at all good. In fact, it was a mess. A strange mix of Mad Max, Escape From New York and Resident Evil, that film was chaotic and uninteresting. Centurion, however, shows Neil Marshall hitting his stride once more, and whilst it mightn’t hit the highs of The Descent or Dog Soldiers, it’s a strong action film in its own right.
Put simply, Centurion is a case of the Picts versus the Romans. If, like me, this is enough to pique your interest, then you needn’t read any further, but rush out and hire the DVD when you next get a chance. If you want to hear more, then read on. Quintas Dias is the leader of a small group of Roman soldiers, the only survivors after a devastating attack by the Picts. This handful of men must long enough survive behind enemy lines to reach the Roman frontier, with the Picts hot on their heels.
Centurion is a very gory affair. I honestly lost count of the number of decapitations. The violence is deliberately gruesome and if you’re easily bothered by this sort of thing, then you’d best avoid the film altogether. The action, on the whole, is reasonably well handled. A number of the skirmishes are deliberately haphazard and take a scattergun approach to editing. This would no doubt bother the Marks in all of us, though I felt that such moments were appropriate at the time.
There are, however, two beautifully staged fights that deliberately have the cameraman take a few steps back. The climactic scene in particular is fantastically exciting, and echoes Marshall’s earlier successes (Dog Soldiers in particular).
I was in two minds about Michael Fassbender. He’s good, though not very charismatic as Quintas Dias. He does deliver what would otherwise be trite voiceovers with skill, however. Dominic West (of ‘The Wire’ fame) is the one who gets lumped with all the charisma, though unfortunately his role is much smaller. Marshall manages to find a reason for both Olga Kurylenko and Imogen Poots to appear as Picts, which is a good example of creative casting, to say the least. In case you were wondering, here the Romans speak with variations of English and Irish accents, while the Picts sound very guttural and Germanic in their native tongue. Noel Clarke also plays an African with his east end ‘Dr Who’ accent. Basically, it’s best not to think about it too much. If you could deal with Sean Connery as a Scottish Russian in The Hunt for Red October, then you’ll be fine.
The film is far from perfect, and it’s interesting to note that Marshall still can’t seem to get the pacing right in his films – the action starts and stops in somewhat jarring moments, though there are several excellently orchestrated scenes. As with most of his films, it’s also initially difficult to tell the main characters apart, though this obviously gets easier as the cast is whittled down.
Centurion is a fun historical action flick with enough to keep one entertained. The locations are awe-inspiring and the sets and costumes are wonderfully drab. The film stock was simply too dark for my liking – the darker moments have no definition at all – though I’d be happy to learn that it was just my particular cinema dropping the ball.Rating: