Centurion (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus puts toothpaste in his hair and goes after a few runaway Romans.
AD 117: The Roman Empire stretches from Egypt to Spain, and east as far as the Black Sea. But in Scotland, the relentless onslaught of conquest has ground to a halt in the face of the savage tribes known as the Picts.
After escaping the clutches of the Picts, Roman centurion Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) is found by Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West) and his all-conquering legion, but when they come face to face with the Picts on their own turf, Quintus finds himself on the run alongside a small band of survivors with the Pict’s best tracker, Etain (Olga Kurylenko) hot on their trail.
For the record I’ve liked the last three Neil Marshall flicks. I thought Dog Soldiers was and still is a fun bit of horror, The Descent got the tension just right and Doomsday, though one massive riff on other movies, was just balls to the wall kinetic fun that was so over the top that its weaknesses were easily ignored. So going into Centurion, I was hoping that Mr Marshall was not only going to breathe a bit of life into the frankly flat lined period war drama genre, but add a little bit of his own spice for good measure.
Well from the get go everything felt a little bit forced. The sets really ain’t that realistic (a tiny budget will do that I guess), the dialogue is a weird mixture of well spoken slang terms and other than the obvious affection of seeing a good blood spray, Marshall’s sensibilities seemed to lean towards any visual gags he could get that involved someone getting stabbed in the penis or giving characters a reason to take a piss.
The first act is just filled with unlikable jerks. Meathead Romans led by a totally unconvincing Dominic West, a weirdly lifeless performance from Fassbender, and frankly one of the weakest spins on a Darth Maul character by Olga Kurylenko that I’ve seen in a while. This really wasn’t helping me get into the proceedings at all and as the story drove on (or is that meandered?) the small details really began to wind me up.
For starters, when Quintus is on the run with his small band of Roman survivors he says “These men are the best I’ve seen”. Based on what exactly? They got their asses handed to them in a pretty short battle (which Quintus didn’t see as he was taken out pretty quickly and buried under a pile of dead bodies). They couldn’t save their general at all. They’ve all whined about keeping moving and frankly none of them seemed the best at anything that they did. It didn’t stop there though. Etain seemed to track them with mystical precision, even smelling them downwind across a river, but if they rest up for a couple of days in a cave or a hut, her and her gang never caught up. She was even right on top of them while they hid under the floorboards of a hut and she didn’t know they were there. I mean seriously, some consistency would have been nice.
Centurion lost me by about the mid way point. I just didn’t care whether these Romans survived or not, I didn’t buy into the love story that blossomed between Quintus and the “witch” in the woods (which was forced at best), I didn’t care that despite being down to three men and only having a sword, a spear and a couple of arrows, the badass Picts still had a problem taking out the surviving Romans. I just zoned out and watched as the finale’s predictable twists unravelled and the credits rolled and then came that oh too common 2010 feeling when I realized I’d just watched another mediocre movie this year.
Blue! That’s the overbearing thing to take away from Centurion’s transfer. It’s very, very blue. Because of that, you’ll struggle to get much from the colour palette to lift this very cold, stark feeling film. There is, of course a lot of blood spray but it’s a very dark red most of the time and the toothpaste in their hair effect on the Picts looked detailed with its thick layers and the whiteness of that and Olga’s huge eyes are quite piercing in contrast to the blueness around them
The movie's desaturated look offers up some deep blacks and a gritty feel to the battle scenes and generally the wider shots look pretty epic (even the heavy CGI Roman campsites), but really the details aren’t quite there outside of the handful of scenes. You can see the odd bit of skin texture, some wider woodland shots look good and costumes look okay but besides a single scene in a cave as the boys share their stories, which looks pretty goddamn great with the minimal lighting and fantastic detail, the movie all looks a little samey and frankly a little bland for a Blu-ray.
Centurion’s DTS MA track is about as brash as most of its characters. It not that dynamic, there's really only ambient sounds when there’s a battle going on (consisting of clanging metal and shouting—oh and blood sprays, don’t forget blood sprays) and its main selling point is that it's loud when it wants to be.
The score comes with quite a bit of bass and the odd sound effect packs a nice thud from the speakers but really it’s quite a low key affair with dialogue sounding crisp and clear and the odd spike in volume reminding you there’s something to pay attention to.
The commentary track from Neil Marshall, Simon Balls (Production Design) and Paul Hiat (Prosthetic Designer) is what you’d expect from a crew commentary—very focused on the look and feel of the movie and Marshall offering up the story development background. The track never really loses its pace and the group share a few enjoyable stories from the movie, but really it’s only one to venture into if you're into elements of how the movie was made.
The Making of (26:23 SD) is split into four chapters and talks about the myth the story is based on and about how Scotland and indeed Britain as a whole held off the all conquering Romans and goes into detail about the development of Neil Marshall’s ideas behind the tale and the shoot.
The outtakes (06:09 SD) are short and sweet but offer up a few laughs and the deleted scenes (07:57 SD) come with optional Marshall commentary.
Lastly there’s the theatrical Trailer (02:10 HD) along with a photo gallery (02:01 SD) and production design gallery (02:14 SD) finish up the disc.
Less than twenty-four hours ago I would have said that I could have watched Olga Kurylenko get on and off of a horse all day. After watching Centurion and seeing her get on her steed and shake her spear about fifty times, I can say that I didn’t last ninety minutes (maybe if she’d looked like she did in Hitman it would have been different?).
Anyway, I found this latest Neil Marshall flick to be a bit of a waste of time. I totally respect the fact this British director is doing the impossible within the British filmmaking world and actually making (relatively) large audience pleasing movies that he wants to make, but for me Centurion just had nothing special about it. It didn’t feel new or all that sharp and honestly, if I wanted to see a group of people tracked through the woods by the savage natives, I’m opting for the far superior Apocalypto.
The disc looks and sounds okay with glimmers of greatness and the extra features serve up just enough to make this a fairly good little package, so Neil Marshall die hard should be happy enough with this release, anyone else might want to rent it first.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 16th August 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Description 5.1 English
Extras: Commentary, Making of, Trailer, Photo Galleies, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes.
Easter Egg: No
Director: Neil Marshall
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko
Genre: Action, Drama and War
Length: 97 minutes
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