“If you like your history bloody, this is the film”, Director Neil Marshall introducing Centurion to the audience at The Los Angeles Film Festival Ford Theatre screening. Those are strong words to live up to and it was with great pleasure that the film delivered just what he promised. Centurion is an epic of small proportions. Telling the story of the Ninth Legion of the Roman Army it does not give the impression of glamourous Knights and fair Maidens during this time in history. The production design is small scale, as it should be. There are no elaborate sets, just simple constructs with tents housing the army and battle armor aplenty. This fits perfectly with the premise of conquering unknown lands and battling the local people, the Picts, as the Romans are strangers to this place. This is not home but a constant place of battle after battle. Of encampments being attacked and people murdered at will. These design choices make it possible for the viewer to instantly imagine what life was like for the Legion and the Picts. The battle between them is not pretty and neither is their environment.
Speaking of environment, the film uses it to its full advantage in order to demonstrate the hardships. When the remaining members of the Ninth must find their way back home, or to the nearest friendly stronghold, after being defeated by The Picts, one of the greatest threats they have is the wilderness. Snow drenched land, harsh winds, freezing cold temperatures, and lest us not forget the animals, like a pack of wolves. Food is scarce and warmth even scarcer. These men are not only running for their lives from the Picts but also undergoing the harsh reality of man vs. nature. Their journey is fraught with danger and it gives the film a level of suspense and anxiety for the viewer to happily envelope. But the strongest danger they face is a woman. Played with fierce voraciousness by Olga Kurylenko, the Pict tracker Etain is evil personified. Unable to speak, she has no need for words. One look from her steely, enraged, hateful eyes and chills run down your spine. She leads the Picts hunt for the Roman’s and nothing will stop her from killing each and every one of them. As enemies go, she provides more distress than an army of thousands. She is also a master at combat, providing a great deal of the aforementioned bloody promise.
Now, about that blood. This movie is not short on action. You can expect to see plenty of killing and in turn blood. What makes these scenes incredible, especially the final battle between Etain and the remaining soldiers, is the editing technique employed. There is no build-up, no slow motion effect, or time given to the impending action. Each cut simply shows another piece of a blade cutting into the skin, an axe hitting its mark, a knife gutting someone like a fish. It is an illumination of carnage. The result is one bloody mess of supreme awesomeness that guarantees to delight anyone looking for artistic technique that does not shy away from the obsessive need to show the dirty reality that is battle.
Centurion provides all one could want for a historical action-adventure. The pace may be slower than the average historical epic but it bodes well for the story at hand. If we break the film down into FilmFracture terms, this is what you get:
Production: 3 clocks
Production Design: 3 clocks
Action Sequences: 4 clocks
Editing: 4 clocks
Not too shabby for an epic of small proportions. I think you know where you should be on August 27th, now don’t you? OR you can watch it at home right now via Amazon On Demand. Click here to order: Centurion (Pre-Theatrical Rental)