Thursday, April 14, 2016

centurion [2010]

being a fan of director neil marshall's previous films i couldn't wait to see this pic when it was released.  much to my chagrin that wait extended to nearly 6 years.  i blame it on time itself.  time is an odd dimension.  it seems to get faster the older we become.  for example, a couple mornings ago i picked up a chapbook by one of my favorite poets.  i was thinking the chap was published only so long ago.  i was shocked to see it was published in 2012.  what seems brand new to me is 4 years old.

needless to say, i finally saw this period roman picture.  it's not a peplum but marshall is a genre movie freak so i'm sure a bit of the old sword-and-sandal cinema of the 20th century was on his mind when he made this movie.  the film stars michael fassbender as a roman soldier whose garrison is overrun by the picts in scotland.  fassbender joins up with the IX legion where legend tells the tale of the missing 3000 strong legion.  some say they were massacred by the picts.  others say they disbursed into germany.  in this story they are massacred.  fassbender and a few other romans fight for their lives behind enemy lines.

it's a good action movie.  the set pieces are blitzkrieg crazy.  fassbender and co. are formidable foes for the picts.  as for the picts they are led by the warrior, etain, played with relish by olga kurylenko.  she is a tracker too and never lets the romans rest for a moment.

here's the thing.  i think i was supposed to root for the romans who were exhausted, starving and hunted.  but etain was a woman who survived atrocities afflicted by the romans.  her father was murdered.  her mother was raped to the point she begged for death.  etain was raped then had her tongue cut out.  she, i think, understandably, wants to kill all the invading romans.

i was rooting for etain all the way.  but this was not her movie.  marshall plays loose with an ancient story.  he's a very talented filmmaker who found what seemed like an underdog story and built an exciting, bloody narrative around it.  still, as i watched the movie i couldn't help think upon all the killing onscreen.  this is your one life and you want to spend it by killing and dying?  to what end?

we can ask that question now.  for we haven't changed at all in several thousand years.  we kill and die for all sorts of dumb-ass reasons, like the perpetuation of empire.  i'm reminded of a poem i read this morning by the late norwegian poet olav h. hauge that ends this way:

     There's so much to think about here in this world,
     one life's not enough.
     After work you can roast pork
     and read Chinese poetry.
     Old Laertes clears brambles
     and hoes around his fig trees,
     and let the heroes battle it out at Troy.

this is my attitude anyway.  i fear i've gone afield.  this is a fine action/adventure pic.  i can't wait for neil marshall to make another movie.  



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