The Centurion

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By lkoelle on January 4, 2012. No Comments

(directed by Neil Marshall,
Pathé Pictures International, etc,
2010; distributed by Magnet Releasing).
A Review by Annalaissa Johnson

The producers of The Centurion took its tagline to heart when they said, “History is written in blood.” The plotline tells the story of what happened to the evasive ninth legion that mysteriously disappeared in Britannia around 117 A.D — certainly a story worth imagining, and with background details accurate enough to draw the genuine interest of the Classics community.

Historically, the Pict Massacre occurred in 60 A.D., well before the legion’s disappearance, and the legion is thought to have vanished in 117 A.D. in Judea or Cappadocia (not Britain). Although the glaring historical inaccuracy may be uncomfortable for some Classics enthusiasts, the director put a lot of effort into ensuring that the setting, armor, and battle scenes were accurately portrayed, especially those that involved gory images.

The main character, Quintus Dias, takes the few surviving Romans (including a cook) on a rescue mission behind enemy lines to save their General after suffering from a Pict massacre. The film is filled with adrenaline-packed action, mystery, and, most importantly, some pretty gruesome battle scenes.

Although the premise of the story captivated my interest, I found the plot to lag toward the middle of the movie as the filmmakers became too focused on producing quality battle scenes rather than maintaining a moving story. As someone who can appreciate Classical references but gets overwhelmed by excessive gore, I found myself weary toward the middle, as even the most gruesome beheading and dismemberment veered toward the less emotional and more routine.

The mysterious historical disappearance of an entire legion makes for a fascinating and intriguing story, and provides a plot that writer-director Neil Marshall took advantage of in The Centurion; however, the battle scenes were so true to actual Roman bloodiness that those who are queasy or sensitive to violence may want to opt for a more family friendly selection. Overall, I give the film a B+ for carrying an interesting plot, an A for staying genuine to Classical history, and an A- for filmography and battle scene depiction… at least for the parts I watched while peeking through my fingers!

About the Author
Annalaissa Johnson is a rising senior and Latin Major at Wake Forest University and Beta Iota’s Chrysophylax. Her interest in the Classics was sparked in high school, where she studied with Mr. Ian Hochberg and Ms. Melanie Streed and was an active participant in local certamina. When she’s not watching Classics-related movies, she spends her free time composing music and preparing for the LSAT. Because of her energetic campaign, Beta Iota will host the 2013 annual convention.