Centurion (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Neil Marshall
Produced by Christian Colson
Robert Jones
Written by Neil Marshall
Starring Michael Fassbender
Dominic West
Olga Kurylenko
Music by Ilan Eshkeri
Cinematography Sam McCurdy
Edited by Chris Gill
Distributed by Pathé
Release dates
  • 15 February 2010 (2010-02-15) (Austin Asian Film Festival)
  • 23 April 2010 (2010-04-23)
Running time
97 minutes
Country United Kingdom[1]
Language English
Budget $12 million
Box office $6,168,898

Centurion is a 2010 British historical action-war film directed by Neil Marshall,[1] loosely based on the legend of the massacre of the Ninth Legion in Caledonia in the early second century AD. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, Dominic West and Liam Cunningham. While the film received mixed to positive reviews, it did very poorly at the box office, only earning one-half of its $12 M budget.


Beginning in 117 AD, the narrative opens with a Roman soldier fleeing across a snowy landscape, saying; "My name is Quintus Dias. I am a soldier of Rome, and this is neither the beginning, nor the end of my story."

The Romans have been unable to fully conquer Britain, meeting the fiercest resistance in the north, and the Picts of Alba are engaging in a guerrilla campaign against the Roman forts along the Glenblocker line and the Gask Ridge at the southern border of the Scottish Highlands. At Pinnata Castra, the Picts ambush and destroy the entire garrison, taking only one survivor for questioning, the centurion Quintus Dias, because Dias can speak the Pictish tongue. Taken prisoner by Vortix, Dias is brought to the Pict king Gorlacon who has united the northern tribes; Dias is brutally interrogated in the presence of the leader's son, who is forced to watch. Dias later escapes on foot, still with his hands bound.

Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor of Britannia, wants to obtain favour with the Roman Senate, hoping to secure a transfer back to the comforts of Rome. He dispatches the Ninth Legion, under General Titus Flavius Virilus, to eradicate the Pictish threat and provides him with a female Celtic Brigantian scout called Etain. As the legion marches north they encounter Dias and rescue him from three of Gorlacon's men. Dias tells Virilus of his encounter with Gorlacon and the general discovers that Dias' father was a famous gladiator whom he had seen fight. Dias befriends two Roman officers, a veteran named Bothos and a young Roman soldier named Thax.

Etain betrays the legion to Gorlacon, leading them into an ambush where they are annihilated. The general is captured, while Dias, Bothos, and Thax survive, along with four others: "Brick"; two Greco-Roman legionaries named Macros and Leonidas; and Tarak, a cook from the Hindu Kush. They set out to rescue general Virilus and, after a few days' travel, they find him at Gorlacon's village and sneak in at nightfall. Failing to break his chains, he orders them to leave him and get back to Roman territory. During the attack, Thax kills Gorlacon's young son and recovers Virilus' helmet.

The next morning the general is confronted by Gorlacon, who explains that the iron chains were too brittle to pry apart and that his would-be rescuers should have shattered them instead of attempting to pry them loose. As Etain steps forward, Virilus is told the history of Etain: her father was killed and her mother raped and killed by Roman soldiers, who then raped her and cut out her tongue so she would be unable to tell anyone. She was found by the Picts and trained as a hunter and tracker, then sent back to the Romans to deceive them. He is then given a sword and made to duel with Etain, who kills him.

The seven Romans plan to travel north (which is away from Roman territory) to throw the Picts off their trail, then head west, and then south. Meanwhile, Etain, Aeron, Vortix and a detachment of seven Pictish warriors are sent to kill them. After several days' pursuit they catch up with the fugitives, who jump off a cliff into a river. Tarak is killed before he can jump, Macros and Thax become separated from the others and see a wolf close-by. Dias and his group camp for the night, while their trackers set up camp nearby. Dias and Brick launch a night raid on the enemy camp, killing two men and severely wounding a third, but cannot find Etain. Dias learns of the death of Gorlacon's son, and that the king has sworn vengeance on their heads. Etain is absent, as she has launched her own attack on the Roman's campsite. Dias and Brick return to their camp, only to discover that Leonidas has been killed and Bothos injured.

Macros and Thax are running from a wolf pack. Thax falls, with the wolves in close pursuit, and cries out to his comrade for help. Macros returns to help him and Thax slices through Macros' hamstrings to prevent him from standing, allowing Thax to escape while the wolves attack and devour Macros. Dias, Bothos and Brick find a hut in the forest where they befriend Arianne, a Pict exile accused of witchcraft. She shelters them, provides food and medical attention. When Etain comes the following day, Arianne confronts her while the Romans hide in her grain store under the floorboards. The next morning they leave Arianne, who provides them with enough food to travel to a nearby Roman garrison.

They find the garrison abandoned, an order pinned to a post says that the Roman troops have retreated south, by the orders of Emperor Hadrian. As they see Etain and her group of Picts approach, they set up a defensive position inside the fort. Bothos kills Vortix and a female warrior, Dias kills two Picts, and Brick kills Aeron and the last Pict warrior; however, before the Picts are defeated, Brick is killed by a spear thrown by Etain whom Dias then kills.

Dias and Bothos continue southwards and are reunited with Thax. Upon reaching Hadrian's Wall which is beginning construction, Thax (afraid that Dias will report his actions) threatens Dias and they fight, with Dias killing Thax. Bothos, joyfully riding towards the Romans, is mistaken for a Pict and shot by an archer. When Dias enters the camp he reports to governor Agricola, who is concerned that news of the Legion's annihilation might cause other tribes to rise up against them. He is also fearful of his record being tainted by a military failure, and decides that the Ninth Legion's fate should remain a mystery and Dias must be killed. Dias manages to foil the attempt on his life, though he is grievously wounded in the thigh during the fracas, and Agricola's daughter tells him that he is too much of a risk. He escapes the camp and returns to Arianne in the forest. As the weakened Dias lies in her arms by the stream, he and Arianne kiss. The film ends with Quintus Dias adjusting the narrative of the film's opening line;

"My name is Quintus Dias. I am a fugitive of Rome, and this is neither the beginning, nor the end of my story."


  • Michael Fassbender as Quintus Dias, a centurion. His father was Scipio Dias, a renowned and later freed gladiator. Formerly the second-in-command at the Inchtuthil garrison, Quintus is the only survivor of the fort and the only Roman to escape king Gorlacon. Quintus joins the Ninth Legion's march into Caledonia and is later betrayed by governor Agricola.
  • Olga Kurylenko as Etain, a warrior, scout, hunter and tracker from the Brigantes tribe. Marshall said of the character, "Etain is kind of revenge incarnate. Her family were butchered by the Romans, she had her tongue cut out by the Romans, she's had a hell of a time and she's out for Roman blood... She's quite furious because one sense is not there – she can’t speak – all the others are more developed. She sees very well and hears very well: she is an animal!"[2]
  • Dominic West as Titus Flavius Virilus, the general (legate) of the Ninth Legion.
  • Liam Cunningham as Ubriculius ("Brick"), a veteran soldier from the Ninth Legion.
  • David Morrissey as Bothos, a veteran officer from the Ninth Legion.
  • JJ Feild as Thax, an officer from the Ninth Legion.
  • Ulrich Thomsen as Gorlacon, the leader of the Picts.
  • Noel Clarke as Macros, a refugee from Numidia and a legionary from the second cohort of the Ninth Legion.
  • Riz Ahmed as Tarak, a cook from the Ninth Legion.
  • Dimitri Leonidas as Leonidas, a Greek-Roman legionary from the Ninth Legion.
  • Dave Legeno as Vortix, a powerful Pict warrior.
  • Axelle Carolyn as Aeron, a Pict archer.
  • Imogen Poots as Arianne, an exiled Pict woman who forms a relationship with Quintus Dias.
  • Paul Freeman as Gnaeus Julius Agricola, Roman governor of Britannia. This is an anachronism; the historical Julius Agricola was actually governor some 20–30 years before the events depicted in the film, and was already dead by the time Hadrian's Wall began construction. The governor at the time of the Pictish war, the disappearance of the Ninth Legion and the beginning of the construction of Hadrian's Wall in 119 AD was actually Quintus Pompeius Falco.
  • Rachael Stirling as Druzilla, Governor Agricola's daughter.
  • Michael Carter as Antoninus
  • Tom Mannion as Tesio
  • Peter Guinness as Cassius
  • Lee Ross as Septus
  • Jake Maskall as Argos
  • Eoin Macken as Achivir
  • Neil Marshall as Archer on Hadrian's Wall, an uncredited cameo as the watchman who mistakes Bothos for a Pict.


Centurion was written originally by director Neil Marshall under the working title Ninth Legion. The Ninth Legion, according to one legend, marched into Scotland from York with over 3,000 men and disappeared. In recent years, historians have disputed the fate of the legion; some believe they were disbanded, while others believe they were massacred in Germania or in the East fighting the Persians during the early years of the second century. Marshall said of his take of the story, "It's not meant to be historically perfect. I'm picking up on a legend and exploring it... it's an action thriller."[3] The tide of academic opinion seems to be returning to the view that the Legion was probably wiped out in Britain. In a recent book,[4] Dr Miles Russell of Bournemouth University observes that there is strong evidence for a catastrophic British war resulting in the annihilation of the legion early in the reign of Hadrian.

Filming began towards the end of February 2009.[5] Filming locations included the Scottish locations Badenoch, Strathspey,[3] and Glenfeshie Estate in the Cairngorms. Filming also took place at Ealing Studios in London and in Surrey locations,[6] such as Alice Holt Forest and Hurtwood Forest in the Surrey Hills.[7] Historical re-enactment groups were enlisted to play Picts and Roman soldiers in the practical filming at Badenoch and Strathspey.[3] Filming was completed in March, after seven weeks.[8][9] Production design was by Simon Bowles, with art direction by Jason Knox-Johnston. The sets were built by DRS Construction.[10]

The film was screened on 18 March 2010 at the South by Southwest Film Festival as the "Super Secret TBD" film. It was also the opening night premiere for the inaugural ActionFest film festival. The film was released on 30 July 2010 as video on demand on the Xbox Live Marketplace and Amazon.com.[11]


The film received mixed to positive reviews, and currently has a 59% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes and 62/100 on Metacritic.[12][13] The Birmingham Post gave the film two stars out of five saying "this hideously violent, formula one chase movie lacks the novelty of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto".[14] Empire Magazine gave the film three stars out of five stating that the film "could have done with a lot more character-meat on those bones."[15] Film4 gave the film two stars out of five stating "It's just a shame none of this stuff was thought through a little more carefully, because there's a talented cast here who have been hung out to dry."[16] The Guardian gave the film two stars out of five stating that "this is exercise-bike cinema: energetic, relentless and tipping towards monotony".[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Buchanan, Jason. "Centurion". Allmovie. Retrieved 11 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "First Look: Olga Kurylenko in Centurion". Empire. 16 March 2009. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Ford, Coreena (22 March 2009). "Neil's back into battle". Sunday Sun. Retrieved 25 March 2009. 
  4. ^ Miles Russell (2010) Bloodline: the Celtic Kings of Roman Britain
  5. ^ Kemp, Stuart (6 February 2009). "Noel Clarke enlists in Marshall's army". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  6. ^ Chetwynd, Samantha (9 February 2009). "Big break for film fans in the north". Press and Journal. 
  7. ^ "Alice Holt Forest News". forestry.gov.uk. Forestry Commission. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  8. ^ Cooper, Sarah (12 June 2009). "Call of the Roman empire". Screen International (Emap Media). 
  9. ^ Brian Pendreigh (15 August 2009). "Pillage people". Sunday Herald. Retrieved 25 August 2009. 
  10. ^ DRS Construction
  11. ^ New Green Band Trailer – Neil Marshall's Centurion
  12. ^ http://www.metacritic.com/movie/centurion
  13. ^ "Centurion (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 30 June 2010. 
  14. ^ Young, Graham; Laws, Roz (21 April 2010). "Movie Reviews: The Joneses; Date Night; It's A Wonderful Afterlife; Centurion". The Birmingham Post. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  15. ^ Jolin, Dan. "Review of Centurion". Empire Magazine. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  16. ^ Jolin, Dan. "Review of Centurion". Film4. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 
  17. ^ Brooks, Xan (22 April 2010). "Flm Review: Centurion". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 May 2010. 

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