Would you Adam and Eve it Constant Reader? I've only gone and seen another film!
On Friday I accompanied Andrew to BAFTA to see a screening of the new Neil Marshall film CENTURION.
This is my second 'Roman' film in as many weeks - AGORA was the other - and I am discerning a definite trend, mighty Empire unable to cope in occupied territories with either, religious fundamentalism or insurrection from indigenous population.
Ringing bells at all?
One definitely gets the whiff from CENTURION - a generic band-of-brothers-caught-between-enemy-lines actioner - that to film it in present day circumstances would be viewed as distasteful so the safety cloak of the Roman era is thrown on.
Goodness knows there is no real attempt to distance it from today, from the opening line of a Roman soldier looking out from a sentry post that "this country is the arsehole of the world" you know what you are going to be in for - thick-eared film-making at it's most unrelentingly grim. The audience mostly consisted of people flinching from the graphic axe-meeting-head, spear-meeting-gonads footage or people tittering at the absurd "oi-oi" script.
Poor the Dominic West having to growl as the legion's just-one-of-the-men General "When will people learn not to fuck with the 9th?" Please...Yes, the film covers the mystery of what happened to the Roman 9th Legion that allegedly vanished while stationed in England. There is a second film due out this year based on THE EAGLE OF THE NINTH by Rosemary Sutcliffe which uses this as it's jump-off point too - you wait years for a 9th Legion film to come along etc...
Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbender) is taken captive when his company of soldiers is wiped out when their fort is ambushed by Picts. The only reason he too is not killed is when he shouts out in the Picts language. He somehow manages to escape - don't ask why, it would get in the way of the plot - and makes it back to the 9th. Just in time to learn that they are setting out for the dreaded North to kick Pict arse once and for all. They are to be led by the statuesque and Amazonian tracker Etain (Olga Kurylenko), a Pict who has seemingly defected to the Roman side. Oh and she's mute so no tricky English dialogue for our Olga.
Needless to say leads our gallant lads into an ambush where they are all but wiped out, General Virilus (West) is captured and seven disparate soldiers are left to fend for themselves.An attempt to rescue Virilus fails but not before the Nasty Cowardly Soldier (J.J. Feld) kills the Pict leader's young son before the survivors flee the camp. When the son's body is found, Virilus is hacked up by Etain who sets out with the Picts to track down the seven soldiers.
So then we sit back and watch off as the Roman Seven are picked off, either by the avenging Picts - or by the Nasty Sneaky Soldier!
Fassbender makes a charismatic hero and by and large the performances of Liam Cunningham (gruff old soldier), David Morrissey (gor-blimey best mate), Noel Clarke (brave but too trusting squaddie) manage to rise above the relentlessly macho script.
Dominic West is dispatched far too soon as does the always reliable Lee Ross. Ukrainian ex-model Kurylenko unsurprisingly does most of her acting with her cheekbones while Ulrich Thomsen and Dave Legeno make you wish their characters were given more to do.
Noel Marshall certainly directs with a brutish heft but it is so relentlessly brutish that it's relatively short running time of 97 minutes becomes an endurance test. His script is also a slog with it's unoriginal plotline and imagery - there was an audible groan towards the end when he utilises the now-standard PLATOON rip-off shot of our hero sinking to his knees in slow-motion at the meaningless death of a buddy.
The colour palette is desaturated so most of the film is icy blues and dull grey. Marshall also overdoes the tired shtick of aerial tracking shots of the tiny band of survivors running across snow-covered mountain tops. Once or twice okay... but here it is used relentlessly - I guess the budget went on the hire of the helicopter!