Thursday, 17 March 2016
The question of what happened to Rome's Ninth Legion has been a subject of much debate. Records show the legion was stationed in Britain, but then mentions of it abruptly cease. Was it annihilated in battle, and if so why is there no account of the event? Or did it leave the country, and if so, why is there no later record of it elsewhere?
What do you get when you take this intriguing historical mystery and add a strong cast and a talented director?
A film that is less than the sum of its parts, apparently.
It's not that Centurion is a bad film. It's a decent enough little action movie on the whole, in fact. It just never quite seems to gel in the way that Dog Soldiers and The Descent - films from the same director, and featuring the same "small group must band together to survive an implacable enemy" narrative structure - did.
A large part of the blame can be laid at the feet of the script. We're clearly supposed to root for the survivors of the Ninth (spoilers: the film goes for the 'annihilated in battle' explanation) as they try to escape their Pictish enemies, but it also underlines that Rome is the invader here, and that Roman tactics of torturing and raping civilians are what has galvanised Pictish resistance. I guess the writers were going for shades of grey, but they mostly just made things a murky mess.
Overall, it's not a bad way to spend 90 minutes - I was pretty entertained throughout the film - but it is neither as exciting or as memorable as it should have been.