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Posted on 12/25/10 11:47 PM
Centurion is one of those movies you start to watch and think, for just a moment, that it might actually pull off the material well and provide a meaningful, enjoyable story. Then you see the female Pict tracker sporting loads of mascara and you realize what a fool you were.
The movie revolves around one man named Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier stationed on the Scottish frontier during the Legion's attempted foray into totalitarian rule over the UK territories. He's a simple yet proud man that takes pride in Rome and her people. But his world is turned upside down when a Pict raiding party decimates the fort he's at and takes him prisoner. The rest of the movie is centered around his escape from their clutches and the subsequent attempt to flee enemy territory with a few other Legionaries.
I'll start with the good, which is the beautiful locations and lighting. The countryside is captured wonderfully and the washed out tone set upon the backdrop of the Scottish landscape sets a nice mood. The music, although not memorable, is sufficient in keeping the movie grounded in the warfare epic it's striving to be. Orchestra swelling and moody lulls dot the picture which is what is to be expected.
Now, the bad. To start, the characters are simply caricatures of ruff and tumble Legionaries with no brains but lots of heart, that is of course minus the protagonist who is smart, brave, loving and an unbelievable fighter with no flaws to be seen (zzzz). The Picts are displayed as soulless, murderous barbarians with no capacity for mercy making them both a boring and single faced enemy. Also there is nary a lick of development between any of the characters. All the Romans are strong dignified soldiers (minus one) and all the Picts are crazy voodoo tribesman that revel in Roman blood, not a single character strays from this mold which makes for a boring movie when considering characterization.
Now the fighting, which although bloody, is neither realistic nor suspenseful. The blood sprays out in digital streams of matted on pixels and the limbs, heads and bodies of the men in the fights get cleaved apart as if they were made of paper mache. It's astounding how easily people's heads just get sliced in half at the nose with nothing but a mild swing with a gladias or short axe (Think Kill Bill without the fun). Duels between the more important characters are devoid of excitement and wind up ending in the most boring and predictable ways imaginable.
Finally, I'll touch on the terrible period and logic based inconsistencies. From mascara on the Pict tracker to salon styled hair on a gorgeous hermit out in the woods to giant, flaming, perfectly rounded boulders being shoved down a heavily forested area at the ninth Legion, illogical and ridiculous decisions by the crew pop out at the viewer and scream "I make no sense!".
One of the worst that caught my attention was a scene where the small band of soldiers infiltrate a Pict camp at night, silently killing their way to their captured general, only to find they can't break the chains that are tying him to a rock and must flee without freeing him. Yet in the very next scene, the Picts simply swing an axe into the chains instantly breaking them. You would think that if you formulated an elaborate plan to sneak into a camp with thousands of enemies to free a comrade you would figure out a way to break some iron chains, but apparently all those axes from the Picts they killed on their way to him never seemed like a plausible answer to their dilemma...
All in all Centurion is a very predictable, very mediocre movie set in an era and location with a lot of potential. Sadly, the movie takes advantage of none of it and instead goes down the easiest, bloodiest and ultimately most unfulfilling route they could and leaves the viewer with a sense of loss. That is, a loss of time.