30 November 2010


**** (4.5 stars)

It makes me nervous to say that Neil Marshall has never let me down. Having written and directed some of the most interesting horror films of the past 10 years, he continues to push the boundaries of what defines him as a filmmaker. His first feature film, “Dog Soldiers”, is on all of my personal lists: Best Horror, Best Movie You May Have Never Seen, etc. It is without question one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Following that, he took us spelunking in “The Descent” which managed to creep me out even though I watched the making of first! “Doomsday” is an underappreciated homage to apocalypse films like “Mad Max” and “The Road”. His newest release, “Centurion” departs from the unapologetic gore that earned him membership in the “Splat Pack”.

[side note: Other members of the “Splat Pack” include Alexandre Aja, “High Tension”, Darren Lynn Bousman, “Saw 2-4”, Greg Mclean, “Wolf Creek”, Eli Roth, “Hostel”, James Wan, “Saw”, Leigh Whannell, executive producer of the “Saw” franchise, and Rob Zombie, “Devil’s Rejects”. You can read more about them here.] 

“Centurion” tells the fabled story of Rome’s 9th Legion, one so deadly and feared, they were considered unstoppable. As with all things given such a grand title; they were eventually lost in the woods of Scotland and believed defeated by the Picts. Quintus Dias (the always amazing Michael Fassbender) is a Centurion who escapes capture by the Pict leader Gorlacon and joins up with the 9th while on the run. Shortly after, they are ambushed and General Titus Virilus (Dominic West) is captured. What is left of this great army must now fight to retrieve their fallen leader and escape back to the Roman stronghold. The Picts are not a passive people, and they hunt the Romans with equal virile and the help of their best scout, Etain (Olga Kurylenko). Kurylenko shrugs off any patina from her Bond girl days to play this tortured and mute tracker.

This film got a lot of attention due to its violence level (something we can surly expect from Marshall) and not for the interesting story, great camera work, and fine acting. The complexities of the relationships between the soldiers often mirror that between the Romans and the Picts. Of course its violent and gory, but much of it appears just off screen or from behind: A sword connects with a man’s head, but the camera is behind him so we never really see it connect. Here we have the Roman’s, a civilization that at that time controlled most of Europe and parts of Asian, up against the one enemy they can’t seem to tame, the Picts (Rome met equal resistance from all of the Celtic people). Is it any bloodier than “Glory” or “Saving Private Ryan”? Not really. The difference here is we are fighting with swords and bow and arrow. It’s always unsettling to me how a movie about war can be bloodless. Is this what we should be teaching our children? Not that children should see this movie per se, there is a lot of profanity and gore. (Don’t even get me started on the frequent use of the word “fuck” which was not recorded until the 16th century).

Filmed on location in Scotland, the cinematography of Sam McCurdy (Marshall’s longtime collaborator) is breathtaking. No establishing shot is wasted (*cough* *cough* Harry Potter), and is instead used to transport the viewer to the freezing tundra, dark and damp woods, or through a raging river. When coupled with Chris Gill’s editing (“28 Days Later”) it creates a tight 90 minutes of action and suspense. Make-up artist Paul Hyett (another frequent Marshall contributor, “Hunger”) has outdone himself as well. Legs are wacked off, heads severed from their body, gashes carved into the torsos of fallen soldiers. Bloody and disgusting.

If you haven’t already seen “Centurion”, I highly recommend you add it to your queue today!

No comments:

Post a Comment