Centurion Quintus Dias tries desperately to lead the last remnants of a decimated Roman legion back from behind enemy lines after their annihilation at the hands of the savage Picts.
A fictionalized accounting of the fate of the famed Roman Ninth Legion, this is the story as seen through the lens of the popular theory that the legion was destroyed invading Scotland. Quintus survives the Pict destruction of his garrison and is taken prisoner before eventually escaping and being found by a Roman patrol. He is quickly pressed back in to service as the Romans push onward into Pict territory and the platoon he is assigned to is ambushed and wiped out. Dias rounds up the few survivors, who attempt to first rescue their commander from the Picts and then escape back to Roman territory. The Picts hound them the entire way with the help of a brutally skilled she-wolf scout, leaving the Romans on the run, out of supplies and fighting the Picts, the elements, and each other as Dias tries to guide them home.
The plot is straightforward and the pacing is taught. Being a “Roman” film, there’s a lot of unnecessary political scheming behind the scenes – none of which advances the story much. The acting is good all around and some of the secondary characters really shine. The film has the same bloody sensibility as films like “Gladiator” and “300”, but lacks their energy so it has a tendency to drag from one brutal death to the next, but the omnipresent spectre of the Picts and their guide keeps the tension going even when the action wanes.
A good, enjoyable film overall, “Centurion” isn’t necessarily for the squeamish but the bloodletting isn’t over the top either. It simply seems more intense because the story behind it somewhat weak, thrusting the violence into the foreground. If you’re looking for swordplay and bloodshed, this is a good choice. If you’re looking for a stranger in a strange land tale of survival against all odds, you could do worse. If you’re looking for good historical drama, look elsewhere.