What have the Romans ever done for us?
The UK Film Council (UKFC) was set up by the Labour government in 2000 to promote the UK’s film industry. Famed producer David Puttnam regarded it as “a layer of strategic glue that’s helped bind the many parts of our disparate industry together”. The majority of its funding was through The National Lottery and among hundreds of releases was Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2006) and Shane Meadows phenomenal This Is England (2006). In July, this year, it was sadly announced that the UKFC would be abolished. Unfortunately this may have a large effect on the quality and amount of UK films being produced.
Centurion, according to the Internet Movie Database, was written, directed and edited by Neil Marshall. This seems a lot for one man to embark upon, but it is in fact the fifth time he has taken such control over his films. His films include Doomsday (2008), The Descent (2005) and Dog Soldiers (2002) and what links them all is violence.
Centurion is no different. The violence in Centurion is often over the top, but it is however, not mindless. Marshall manages to find countless ways to dismember, disembowel and decapitate characters. This extreme violence lends itself to innovative cinematography and top class editing. With all this action and extreme violence it’s really not surprising that Marshall has overlooked the script.
After a surviving a Pict raid on a Roman fort Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) joins forces with the Ninth Legion to conquer northern England. After a devastating attack by the Pict a small pocket of soldiers attempt to rescue their lost leader General Virilus (Dominic West).
This may seem quite encouraging, but what lies beneath is a simple “cat and mouse” plotline. After the crippling loss of most of the Ninth Legion they feel the wrath of superhuman tracker Etain (Olga Kurylenko) who seeks revenge for the abuse she suffered at the hands of Roman Centurions. Kurylenko’s performance is by far the best part of this rather disappointing film. Marshall described her character as “revenge incarnate. Her family were butchered by the Romans, she had her tongue cut out by the Romans, she’s had a hell of a time and she’s out for Roman blood […] She sees very well and hears very well: she is an animal!” He couldn’t be more right.
Centurion is not quite good enough for the last hoorah that the UK Film Council deserves so hopefully a more appropriate film will be released to fulfil this task before the UKFC is abolished. Centurion is an entertaining 97 minutes in terms of action, but don’t expect anything more; 5/10.