Neil Marshall, a man i personally would bow down to for creating the The Descent, returns to tackle another genre, the ever-demanding 'toga and sandals' epic, in Centurion.
Set in 117AD, Rome decides to give one last push in enforcing fear upon the Picts, a devilishly violent group. Defeated with guerilla tactics, the Picts leave a group of Roman centurions in a pool of their own blood, with single survivor Quintus Dias (Michael Fassbander, star of Eden Lake and Hunger) taken hostage. After escaping and joining with a fellow team of soldiers, led by General Virilus (Dominic West), they set out on a quest of dominating the Picts in hope of forcefully dragging Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomson), the Pict leader, back to their army base. Unfortunately for the Romans, ferocious mute warrior Etain is hot on their heels.
The straight forward plot eases viewers in nicely due to a short, but informative, written narrative during the opening credits, but - almost instantly - is branded with Neil Marshall's typical violence during the first few scenes with Dias' army of soldiers picked off at an alarming rate. The Picts, proving with their outlandish but effective tactics, hold reign over the entire film, overpowering even the gorgeous Scottish mountains.
Once Dias has escaped and the ball, or fiery boulder if you've seen the film, begins rolling, the second army of soldiers are given the same treatment, dwindling the hundreds down to a rag-tag group of men - including British stars David Morrissey and Noel Clarke. After angering the already-vengeful Etain, played brilliantly by ex-Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, the film rapidly turns into a cat-and-mouse thriller, which is both thrilling and entirely menacing due to Kurylenko's hellbent warrior. Fassbender also impresses, giving a sense of vulnerability and realism to his character.
One of the most memorable points from Centurion were the incredibly brutal, and highly entertaining, battle scenes, featuring countless deaths with a vast range of weapons. It's hard to miss the fact that Marshall is a fan of gore. The Picts' grand-scale ambush against the full battalion of Roman soldiers was undeniably impressive, making it one of the high-points of the film.
Marshall has proved on more than one occasion that he writes his own rules, bringing something new to the table with every feature he does. Whilst Centurion may not be his best piece of work, it's sure nothing terrible. Fans of his will eat this up!