Whenever Director Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers) releases a new film it’s cause for celebration, and that’s just what the crowd did at last night’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival premiere of his new sword and sandle epic, Centurion.
Programmer Peter Kuplowsky described the film as perfect to watch with a chicken leg in your mouth and then proceeded to give one out to a lucky audience member who was asked to perform his best reading of a line from the film – “I am a soldier of Rome! I will not yield!”
Kuplowsky also implored the crowd to be vocal if they liked the movie since, like so many other excellent films, Centurion is not currently slated for a theatrical release in Canada (and will receive a very limited release in the US). That’s a shame because this is most certainly a film that is meant to be seen on the big screen.
Irish hottie Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) plays Centurion Quintas Dias, one of seven survivors of the massacre of the legendary Ninth Legion by the savage Picts who are out to keep North Britain from Roman rule. Too far behind enemy lines to quietly sneak back to Roman territory with their lives, and with a revenge-hungry tracker (Olga Kurylenko) hot on their trails, they race to rescue their captured general (Dominic West) and fight their way back to safety.
Filmed in the Scottish Highlands, Centurion definitely feels epic. There are lots of sweeping vistas and snowy, mountainous terrain for the characters to trudge through, giving you a good sense of their exhaustion and isolation (much like Marshall perfectly conveyed the feeling of claustrophobia in The Descent). The characters are also all drawn vividly so that the constant threat of death is impactful enough to make the numerous (and extremely gory) fight scenes all the more exciting to watch.
The film does falter slightly in some of the clunky dialogue, thin plot devices and in its (very) loose base in history, but it seems like Marshall was going for more of a B-movie feel so in the end it’s the popcorn-y side of things that wins out, making it all the more sad that the masses can’t enjoy this as a big-time summer blockbuster.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
For more reviews from this year’s Toronto After dark Film Festival, click here.
Toronto After Dark Film Festival runs at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor St. West) until August 20. Check the TADFF website for more info.
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