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IN SHORT: More Brit history. [Rated R for sequences of strong bloody violence, grisly images and language. 97 minutes]
Cranky admits to having a fascination with First Century history, though our collegiate studies focussed more on the origins of Christianity than the expansion of the Roman Empire. Centurion, the film, places itself at the very edges of that Empire at the very end of its expansion. That would be 117 AD in Caledonia, the mountains that divide what are the modern countries of England and Scotland. In those mountains, in the beginning of the second century, the Ninth Legion of Rome marched into history.
That means the History of the Roman Empire only records that the army vanished from the face of the earth. So, enough said about that . . . and onwards into Centurion, which proposes a history of its own for the Legion, which went to battle with the barbarians called Picts and, for the most part, meet a spectacular, if bloody, end.
General Virilus (Dominic West) leads the Ninth Legion. With superior forces and guided by a Pict turncoat named Etain (Olga Kurylenko), Virilus expects a quick victory against the barbarians. Etain, on the other hand, is herself a fierce warrior and, given that her tongue was once upon a time removed by a Roman blade, is not about to be the means to a Roman victory.
At least, that's the idea . . .
Seven Romans survive the slaughter to come and, let by the Centurion Quintus (Michael Fassbender), those soldiers -- Bothos (David Morrissey), Macros (Noel Clarke), Tarak (Riz Ahmed), Thax (JJ Feild), Brick (Liam Cunningham), Gorlacon (Ulrich Poots) and Aeron (Axelle Carolyn) -- battles Pict and wolves and nature itself as they seek to rescue their general from captivity and get their tails back to the safety of Roman lines. There's a clever bit of a subplot involving the Roman version of racism but if you blink you'll miss it.
Simply, Centurion would have been terrific if we had to see it as part of whatever passes for Brit middle school. It is well-made enough to earn a solid "rental" rating. but Brit history is still Brit history and while Centurion is not hard to sit through, it isn't going to get people standing on line.
On the other hand . . . when we were younger (not that we're decrepit... yet) there was nothing we liked more than buckets of blood and body parts flying to and fro. Well, the Roman battles staged for Centurion offer hundreds of gallons of the former and probably close to a ton of the latter. If that's what you're into the rating still holds -- get the DVD and replay the appropriate decapitations et al to your heart's delight <g>!
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Centurion, he would have paid . . .
Either way, renting still applies.
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