Neil Marshall writes and directs Centurion, a very bloody, often dank account of Roman-era Great Britain.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Dominic West and Olga Kurylenko, Fassbender earns the attention of his eponymous, fortunate Quintus during the Roman conquest of northern Britain in the 2nd Century (when the Empire spanned from Spain to the Black Sea).
A vindictive tribe called the Picts make life in a British outpost very trecherous leaving Quintus the only one left after a deadly ambush. This leads to the warrior man on a mission teaming with high commander Virilus (West of the hit 300) leaving very few survivors after another pummeling Pict offensive. Ultimately, the film proceeds a little like the recent Green Zone, politically-tempered enough, but with far more beastiality as a chess-match including an extended chase unfolds. This includes tongue-less huntress Etain (Kurylenko of Quantum of Solace) on the prowl to avenge the death of her parents as troops are headed southward through the Highlands.
There are arguably enough gory, taut sequences for those who enjoyed the filmmaker's claustrophobic horror opus The Descent with even a more viscerally filthy fervor on view here. It actually diminishes the more gritty, involving aspects of a charged, crazed historical war picture that may touch on some of the themes in Ridley Scott's more recent take on Robin Hood.
Behind the effortless work of Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) who manages a fierce, yet steely and thoughtful portrait, Imogen Poots (very good in Solitary Man) offers a an unexpected comely detour as a scarred pariah, while Noel Clarke is one of the grunting Romans, an African, part of a wide range of types within a melting pot. And, Kurylenko makes for an alluring, jaguar-like presence while Ulrich Thomsen brings savgery and spite to Pict leader Gorlacon.
Maybe Centurion indicates that Marshall still is honing his skills as a filmmaker and storyteller, with the latter perhaps too ragged. Yet, even if disbelief enters the picture (and one's mind) more than once, there still is something watchable within all the gut-wrenching stuff as something real and terrifying seems to be on the line. It's got plenty of attitude and carnal bluster simmering to a point of no return, but with all of the jeopardy and tenacity it lacks some meaningful human quality.