Thursday, 15 April 2010


Neil Marshall takes us back to ye olde England during the beginning of Hadrian's Wall where the locals weren't happy and war was rife. So can the 'Marshall War Movie' as it's being dubbed live up to it's high expectations? There's only one way to find out. When in Rome...

When Neil Marshall came on the scene, I was excited to see another great British director who wasn't afraid to do what he wants. Unfortunately, that's also his downfall. Sure, I enjoyed Dog Soldiers but I didn't think it was as amazing as others did, but then when The Descent was released I was rocked to the core by how incredible it was. To this day, I still think it's one of the best horror films ever made and in my eyes Marshall could now do no wrong. Until Doomsday was released last year. What the hell was that? I still respected it for trying to be an Eighties B-Movie flick and thought that perhaps it just went a little wrong. That is until I saw Centurion, which now makes me think Marshall just had a stroke of luck with The Descent.

Even after my disappointment with Doomsday, I still came in to Centurion dead excited. What's not to like? The Roman Empire in Britain, Fassbender and Dominic West (better known as McNulty) - surely it's got to be a little bit good at least? Well you'd think so...

The problem is that I don't really know what it wanted to be. It begins as some Roman war movie against the savage Picts, then turns to a rescue mission, then a chase movie. It starts off well enough as you get introduced to the characters but then once the Romans are attacked on the road, instead of turning it up to 11, it goes down to a chilly 2. From then on, it's boring as heck. Fassbender wants to recover their general who is at the enemy camp, so after some lying low they get there and whoops, without revealing it, something goes wrong so then they have to run back to safety. There is only three of them at this point, and they are being chased by about four enemies. There's the classic injured party they have to drag along and the kind woman (wasn't she the borderline-legal-yet-amazing daughter from 28 Weeks Later?) who looks after them. That's basically it without giving too much of the predictable plot away.

In it's favour, the acting is great. Fassbender is incredible as always and it's just lucky that it's him as the main character or it would have been Doomsday all over again, West is also clearly enjoying revelling around as a mad Roman General and even, dare I say it, Noel Clarke didn't fuck me off quite like how he usually does. They even came up with the great idea of having Olga Kurylenko as a mute so she doesn't have to explain her accent or really even act, just stand around looking pretty. But the set pieces and the fact nearly everything is on such a small scale made it look more like a BBC drama than a full-blown cinematic experience. The final big fight is laughable and there is no sense of scale or even a timeframe during the entire film, the whole chase could have lasted less than a week for all I know, maybe it did? There is also not much about the Pict tribe, who are clearly more interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of and there is hardly any sense of danger, or foreboding, or dread when our heroes keep getting caught up with by their enemies. This is mainly due to the fact that Fassbender's character has already been proven to be a great warrior and you just feel like he could take them all on, let alone with the help of the others. Why be so scared of them? Is it because they have horses?

The extremely brief side story of the other two who got separated is completely unnecessary, to the point where I thought they were taking the piss and it was going to explode into some massive thing. Which it didn't. When they get to Hadrian's wall, the rest is utter nonsense. Without giving it away, the idea that Fassbender can do what he did and just walk away is mind-blowing and again, lazy writing.

There is also emphasis on how gory it is and yes, the blood and gore though CG'd to death, is pretty good, but nothing to go crazy about. They also seem to have only two sound effects for swords and the editing during this is horrible, it's literally about a hundred sword swooshes (baring in mind there seems to be only two different ones available) all to a regular beat, which makes it irritating over anything else. You know things are going wrong when during a bar brawl at the beginning, you couldn't have asked for anything to look more fake. Spot as many real-looking punches as you can, and I'd be surprised if you could count them on both hands.

Marshall takes pride in the fact that his shoots are short, but to enter into a film with such ambition is terribly self-destructive. Remember Kubrick would do a thousand takes just for someone to pick up a cup or something as mundane as that and if it's slap-dash to make, it will show on the screen. I respect the fact that he wants to do his own thing, but sometimes you can't be so arrogant to think that every idea you have is a great idea. I really hoped this would be good, but I had a horrible feeling it might be kind of crap and instead it hit even lower than that. It calls itself a Survival Thriller, and I'm sure it will be thrilled if it survives.

Rating: 4/10

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