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AD 117. The Roman Empire stretches from Egypt to Spain, and East as far as the Black Sea. But in northern Britain, the relentless onslaught of conquest has ground to a halt in the face of the guerrilla tactics of an elusive enemy: the savage and terrifying Picts. Quintus Dias Fassbinder, sole survivor of a Pictish raid on a Roman frontier fort, marches north with General Virilus' West legendary Ninth Legion, under orders to wipe the Picts from the face of the earth and destroy their leader Gorlacon. But when the legion is ambushed on unfamiliar ground, and Virilus taken captive, Quintus faces a desperate struggle to keep his small platoon alive behind enemy lines. Enduring the harsh terrain and evading their remorseless Pict pursuers led by the revenge hungry Pict Warrior Etain Kurylenko, the band of soldiers race to rescue their General and to reach the safety of the Roman frontier.
Centurion isn't just a rousing adventure, but a return to form for The Descent director Neil Marshall after the disappointing Doomsday. Irish actor Michael Fassbender Inglourious Basterds plays Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier attempting to defend the Empire against Northern England's indigenous Pict population, when they take him captive. Once General Virilus The Wire's Dominic West, who inspires fierce devotion in his men, gets wind of the skirmish, he sets out to vanquish opposition leader Gorlacon Ulrich Thomsen with the aid of Etain Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko, a mute tracker. Though his Ninth Legion, which includes Bothos David Morrissey and Brick Liam Cunningham, Fassbender's Hunger costar, tracks down Quintus, the Picts slaughter most other comrades and seize Virilus, shifting the battle for conquest into a struggle for survival, a Marshall specialty since Dog Soldiers. Only Arianne Solitary Man's Imogen Poots, a medicine woman who treats Bothos's wounds, arrives as a light in the darkness, holding out the promise of romance should Quintus make it out of Pict territory alive. Though Centurion isn't a world away from historical epics like Braveheart and Gladiator--and succumbs to some of the same genre clichés--Marshall conjures up more of a Western feel with the Romans standing in for cowboys and the Picts for Indians. There's carnage aplenty, but also stunning Highland vistas in shades of emerald and teal. And though Fassbender is a fine actor, West and Kurylenko end up stealing the show by virtue of their more dynamic performances. --Kathleen C. Fennessy