Sunday, 25 April 2010

Review: Centurion

Year: 2010
Director: Neil Marshall
Screenplay: Neil Marshall
Starring: Micheal Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko

Synopsis is here

If there's one thing i love about Neil Marshall, it's that he's not afraid to get his hands dirty, and Centurion once again has the man jumping back into the bloodbath with a claret covered tale about the 9th Legion, the roman military unit who disappeared during Romes invasion of Britain. Don't expect too much of a complex narrative to tell (this is Neil "Dog Soldiers" Marshall) this is Gladiators wilder and more feral cousin. It's a straight up, streamlined, men on a mission flick which doesn't shy away from brutality.

Marshall, a British, writer/director that I'm particularly fond of, has once again gone back into what he would like to see in a simple action thriller and brought it to the forefront. The pacing is tight, it's set pieces have some nice moments to them (usually involving a beheading) and what more interesting (to me any way) is that the characters in the film have the comradeship that was sorely missing from bigger budgeted movies such as...clash of the titans.

Yes this is a movie in which the general of the legion drinks (heavily) with his men before starting a bar brawl and when dying means dying together. This kinship within the characters is one the strong spurs which drive the movie forward and kept me well as the balls to the wall gore. Marshall has written this film with a modern audience in mind and shows us a group of soldiers that interact like a group of soldiers would. While certain films like to believe that films of a certain period were full of well spoken British actors who wouldn't dare speak a word out of place; Marshall's script has a rough, workman like feel to the proceedings with its loutish swearing and banter. At first it felt little off, and I thought to myself "why would it?" In fact Marshall's idea not only modernizes the film but it helps us connect with the characters with it's "just-like-us" mentality. While I don't swear like a sailor to everything, the idea that these soldiers come from a more blue collar circle, fits the surroundings more than one would think.

Casting wise, Marshall mostly hits home, as these character actors are not only on the right side of rugged, but also help put across the workman nature of the piece. Actors like Liam Cunningham and JJ Field who show up put in small but solid turns that help pad the film out. Noel Clarke unfortunately hits a bum note, not due to effort but more down to miscasting, as his voice is just a little too "kidulthood" to be truly believable. Olga Kurylenko unfortunately says nothing in this film and there's a slight inkling that either a man or woman could play the role. She does however do the action well and still has enough charm in her silence to push the idea that she is revenge incarnate.

Of course the leads however, are leads for a reason and the placement of Dominic West as the raw edged Titus and Micheal Fassbender's wonderfully reluctant Quintus are perfect. Fassbender in particular once again shows that he is one of the most interesting new actors on the scene with a display that is miles away from his turn in Inglorious Basterds and not at all like his intense role in Fish Tank. Here he shows that he doesn't just carry scenes, but whole films.

Fans of Marshall's earlier work will be happy again here as once again his set pieces are solid, tight sequences that revel in their bloodiness. They're are visceral, realistic and wouldn't look out of place in a good horror film. It is also Marshall's best looking film, utilizing all of the surroundings to emphasize the isolation and wildness of the land. Although at time you will wonder (like the soldiers) how do certain characters find each other...

However if your thinking that after the movies finished and your on the way home, then the directors work is done and you were far too focused on the guts, gore and viscera to care. Marshall once again shows that when it comes to Brit flicks, he is our B movie man and if anyone can bring us something different to our usual gravitas to Rom-coms and kitchen sink dramas, it's him...when Shane Meadows is busy*.

NOTE: This may be the only film about Roman's that has a reference to Under Siege.

*Not counting