Beautifully shot in the Highlands and featuring a solid cast including Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham and David Morrissey; this story of the abortive attempt of the Roman Empire to conquer Scotland promises so much but ultimately falls a few denarii short of an aqueduct.
Written and directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, 2002; The Decent 2005; and a few GOT episodes), Centurion tells the tale of the massacre of the Ninth Legion at the hand of Picts and the attempt by Quintus Dias (Fassbender) to get the survivors home, all the while being tracked by a small group of Picts avenging the death of their leader’s son.
There is no “Romans go home” or “Bigus Dickus”, but I think the real reason that the film underwhelms is because we’ve seen this all before, and Centurion doesn’t bring anything new to the tabula. Whether its gruesome battle scenes à la Gladiator, with a bit of a Children of Men ambush thrown in; or the fact that most of the film plays out like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, complete with jump into a river far below a cliff edge, it’s all a bit too familiar.
It’s not all straight roads and sanitation, as I said at the top, the main cast is pretty solid, no career bests, but all good. The cinematography from Sam McCurdy is dramatic and moody, and the whole film has a very atmospheric washed-out look to it. I’m sure Ilan Eshkeri (Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass)’s score was great, but I can’t say that I ever really noticed it.
So, an enjoyable romp but ultimately unfulfilling. All Vesuvius, no eruption; all aqueduct, no water; all Pomp-eii, no ceremony. Will I stop now? But, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion man.