Centurion (15)

The ViewBristol Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/04/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 98 mins

Enjoyably trashy swords-n-sandals action thriller, enlivened by strong performances from an excellent cast and a suitably gory approach to the fight scenes.

What's it all about?
Directed by Neil Marshall and set in 117 AD, Centurion stars Michael Fassbender as Roman centurion Quintus Dias, who's captured by a tribe of bloodthirsty Picts when they attack his frontier garrison in northern Britain (i.e. Scotland). Aided by the last few survivors of the legendary Ninth Legion – including Brick (Liam Cunningham), Bothos (David Morrissey), Thax (JJ Feild) and their leader General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West) – Dias escapes and heads for the border, but the Picts are soon hot on their trail, led by fearsome tracker-slash-warrior Etain (Olga Kurylenko), who betrayed the Ninth to the Picts in the first place.

The Good
Fassbender delivers a powerfully charismatic performance as Dias, as tender and convincing in his romantic scenes with Imogen Poots (as a Pict woman banished for alleged witchcraft) as he is skilled and efficient in the action sequences and fight scenes. There's also strong support from Dominic West (clearly enjoying himself as Virilus) and the seemingly ubiquitous Liam Cunningham (who somehow managed to be in both this and Clash of the Titans), while Olga Kurylenko (sporting a frankly terrifying amount of eye make-up) makes a striking and effective villain as Etain, despite – or perhaps because of – the fact that her character can't speak.

Marshall keeps things moving at a brisk pace throughout and the fight scenes are suitably gory and entertaining without going wildly over the top, 300-style. He also orchestrates some terrific action sequences (notably a chase up a mountain) and some genuinely suspenseful moments as they're trying to evade the Picts.

The Bad
Purists may object to the expletive-laden and not exactly authentic dialogue, but the banter between the men works well and is frequently amusing, with moments of blackly comic humour. Other than that, the only real problem is the occasional plot-hole, such as the details of Dias' first escape from the Picts or the sudden failure of Etain's awesome tracking skills – if she can follow them through miles of forest, how come she can't tell six of them are hiding in a tiny house?

Worth seeing?
Centurion is an entertaining swords-n-sandals romp with enjoyable action sequences and terrific performances from a superb ensemble cast. Worth seeing.

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Centurion (15)
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