Centurion (2010)





Director:     Neil Marshall.

Starring:     Michael Fassbender  (Centurion Quintus Dias),  Andreas Wisniewski (Commander Gratus),  Dave Legeno (Vortix),  Axelle Carolyn (Arianne),  Dominic West  (General Titus Flavius Virilus),  Noel Clarke (Macros),  JJ Feild  (Thax),  Lee Ross (Septus),  David Morrissey (Bothos),  Simon Chadwick  (Carlisle Messenger),  Ulrich Thomsen (Gorlacon),  Ryan Atkinson  (Gorlacon's Son),  Paul Freeman (Governor Julius Agricola),  Olga Kurylenko  (Etain).  

devastation of the 9th  Legion of Rome by the Picts in modern Scotland



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

117 AD.  "The Roman Empire stretched from the African desert to the Caspian Sea, but its farthest, most untamed frontier was northern Britain.  In this unforgiving land the Roman army encountered fierce resistance from a people known as the Picts.  Using guerilla tactics and the landscape to their advantage, they brought the invasion to a halt."

A man runs in just pants and shoes through the snow.  He is a soldier of Rome, Quintus Diaz and this is neither the beginning or the end of his story. 

Flashback.  Two weeks earlier.  Inch-tutn-k, the most northerly garrison on the frontier.  Quintus has been here at what he calls "the asshole of the world" for two years.  The Pict king Gorlacon sends his war parties to raid the Romans along the frontier.  The Romans are having a hard time adapting to the Picts' use of guerrilla warfare. Quintus says it's a new kind of war  --  a war without end.

The Picts kill the Roman guards at one of their fortresses.  Then then start pouring over the fortress walls. A huge Pict warrior almost kills Quintus.  He is stopped by a blonde female archer who tells him they should take the Roman with them. 

York.  Garrison of the 9th Legion.  The soldiers are watching an arm wrestling contest.  A fellow named Septus defeats a challenger again.  The loser demands another match and keeps insisting until Septus agrees to arm wrestle him again. When it is clear that Septus is going to win again, it looks like the loser is going to fight dirty.  Septus stabs a knife through the loser's right forearm. At this all hell breaks out with almost everyone fighting someone. 

On a horse comes the personal envoy of Gov. Agricola.  He comes up to a man who is dirty and grungy after some physical activity.  The envoy speaks very harshly to him.  The other man doesn't like the envoy's tone and warns him.  The envoy only changes his tune when he learns that he is speaking to the Roman general Virilus.  He gives the message to the general.  The general reads the message and tells hi saide Septus that all leave is cancelled.  They have to go to war. 

At this time Quentus is pulled behind a horse to be taken to the main Pict village.  At the village he is tortured to get information out of him.  He doesn't give any information to the Picts.  He gets cut across the chest with a knife, but still doesn't talk. 

Headquarters of Julius Agricola, Governor of Britain.  The Governor tells the General to wipe out the Picts and bring him their chief Gorlacon in chains.  The general says the he won't sacrifice his soldiers to be a pawn in the governor's game.  Suddenly a man tries to kill the governor with a knife.  General Virilus takes out his sword and hacks off the would-be assassin's hand.  A young woman named Etain cuts the would-be assassin's throat with a fancy spear.  The governor introduces the general to his Brigantese tracker.  She can't speak a word, but she can follow a track over any terrain.  He tells the general to take her with him.  She knows the Picts well and she will guide him into the mountains. 

Back to the present.  Quintus runs and falls and gets up and runs again.  The Romans are on the march.  A man teases Etain and she hits him in the privates and he goes down.  The Picts on horses are after Quintus.  The Romans spot what is happening and they save Quintus by killing the Picts.  The general tells Quintus that Etain saved his life.  Titus Flavius Virilus is the commander of the 9th Legion.  Quintus's father was a great gladiator who won his freedom by his many victories. 

The Picts watch the Romans march.  All of a sudden a tree falls down in front of the marching legion.  Someone yells:  "It's a trap!"  Quintus is told to go back to the rear and tell them to pull the column back.  As Quintus races to yell that the column should be turned back, he is suddenly knocked out of his saddle and into a ditch.  A lot of other Romans are hit and knocked into the ditch. 

Etain has led the Roman legion into a trap.  There are a few Roman survivors.  Bothos helps Quintus get up from under the many dead bodies laying on him.  A soldier named Brick is with Bothos.  Three other men join the group:  Macros, Leonidas and Thax.  Someone mentions that their general is still alive.  The last they saw of him was when he was being taken away in chains, probably to the Pict camp.  Another man joins the group.  He is Tarak, a cook.  Quintus tells the men to ditch their armor and travel light. 

The men start running.  They stop at a stream for water.  They hear the Picts coming and have to hide behind some fallen trees.  The Picts on horseback are pushing two Roman soldiers along in the stream.  Then they start killing them.  Etain cuts off the head of one of the Romans. 

Quintus tells the other that he knows where they have taken the general. For the night the men stay in a cave.  The men talk and the cook reveals that he is from the mountains of Hindu-Kush. 

The general in the Pict camp sees Etain and calls her a traitor.  Another Pict says the the Roman burned out her father's eyes; raped her mother; and then raped her and cut her tongue out. 

When it is dark the men will go into the Pict village and get the general.  The men sneak into the village.  They see Roman heads displayed on pikes.  They also see the general trussed up by ropes with his hands in the air.  Brick, Bothos Thax and Quintus go to get the general.  As they try to free the general from the iron chains, they hear horsemen coming into the village.  The general tells his men to leave him behind.  Quintus refuses to go.  So the general has to tell Quintus to go now and get the men home.  Reluctantly Quintus goes. 

It so happens that the Picts find the chief's son dead (killed by Thax as he was trying to keep the lad quiet).  In the morning the Picts burn the boy's body. 

Gorlacon comes over to the general to ask him:  "See what you've done?"  They axe the general's chains off the tree.  Now they bring in Etain to flight the general.  She has her spear and the general is given a Roman sword.  Etain kills the general in the fight, after which she screams her bloody head off. 

khe surviving Romans keep running away.  Quintus tells them that they are headed north because the Picts will be looking for them in the south.  Then later the men will head west and then south. 

But Etain is the one who is hunting the survivors.  She doesn't make the mistake of thinking they went south.  She follows their tracks and heads north.  At night the group of Roman hunters paint their faces with blue paint.  The next day Etain keeps tracking them.  She gets her group so close to the group trying to get away that the blonde, female Pict is able to shoot an arrow in their direction.  The men keep running until they reach a cliff.  They decide that they all have to jump off the cliff into the water below.  As they are taking turns jumping off the cliff, Tarak gets hit by two arrows and falls into the river below.  His body starts floating down river. 

The Picts follow the fugitives down stream.  At night the Picts camp on one side of the gorge and the Romans on the other.  Quintus has an idea.  He decides to attack the Pict Camp to even up the odds between the two groups.  He and several others cross over the river and kill several guards at the Pict camp.  But where are the other Picts?  The men go back to the Roman camp.  There they find that the Picts have already attacked their camp.  A few are dead and Bothos has been wounded in the leg. 

Thax and Macros are running across the peat marshes trying to stay ahead of a pack of wolves following them.  Thax takes a spill and begs Macros to come back for him.  The black fellow comes over to help him up and Thax uses his sword to cut the tendons behind the knees of the man.  Thax says that this is unfortunate, but it increases his chances of staying alive.  He runs on while the wolves make their approach on Macros.   

Now only three men continue on with their journey.  They come to a cabin in the woods.  They find that a pretty young blonde named Arianne is the only one who lives there.  She is very scared of Quintus, so Quintus has to tell her in her native language that he is not going to kill her.  He explains that his group of men were 3,000 in number and now there are only three left.  He learns from Arianne that the Roman garrison is only two days walk from here in the the west at Mentieth. 

Arianne takes a look at Bothos's leg.  She puts something on it that will stop the bleeding.  Later she fixes the men some mushroom soup.  The men tell Quintus that the woman is trying to poison them.  Quintus assures them that she is not.  He eats his soup and likes it.  The other two now join in. 

Quintus tells Arianne that they are being stalked by a woman named Etain.  Arianne knows the name and tells Quintus:  "You might as well be dead then." 

The Picts come to the cabin one day.  Arianne tells them that she has seen no one in the forest.  Etain goes inside the cabin to take a look around.  To throw Etain off, Arianne asks her if the cat has got her tongue?  Etain gets so angry that it seems she is going to kill Arianne.  One of the men tells Etain not to kill her because it will be a curse on their people.  The Picts leave.

Quintus tells Arianne that maybe it's time for them to leave.  And this is especially true since the Picts are her people.  Arianne is very bitter at her people.  The king scarred her face with a knife and then banished her to this isolated cabin as a witch.

Quintus asks Arianne why did she risk her life for them?  She says she helps those that she likes.  The Romans say goodbye to her and start walking.  After a short while, the Romans see Etain and the Picts still hunting them.  The Romans come to a Roman fort, but find it deserted.  Quintus reads a note that says that Agricola has fallen back.  Hadrian says they will form a new defensive line to the south.  Before they can get settled, here comes Etain and her Picts.  Quintus says to the other men that he is tired of running.  The men decide to make a stand and fight the Picts.  

Aedo puts an arrow into Bothos.  He grabs the arrow and forces it into her left eye.  Etain kills Brick with a spear through his body.  Quintus has a long fight with Etain, but in the end is able to kill her.  Now that they have killed all the Picts chasing them, Quintus and Bothos keep moving south.  At night Thax hooks up with the two men.  The men want to know from Thax, where is Macros?  He says the wolves got him.  The two men also want to know what happened to the Pict boy?  They know that Thax killed the boy and a lot of Romans lost their lives because of it. 

The men continue south on two horses until they near Hadrian's wall.  Bothos starts riding up to the wall.  Thax pulls his knife on Quintus saying that he has to make sure the two are in agreement on important items.  Quintus rears his horse and both men fall to the ground.  Thax and Quintus start fighting  Quintus defeats Thax by getting him in a headlock and choking him to death.  As Bothos approaches the Roman wall, a Roman archer mistaking him for a Pict fires an arrow into him.  Quintus is very upset.  He runs to check on Bothos but finds him dead.  He places the body over the horse's back and walks the horse through a gate in the wall being built.  

The Romans welcome Quintus.  They set him up with some food to eat.  While he eats, the governor and others talk about the absolute need to keep the news of the decimation of the 9th Legion a secret.  That means that they want Quintus dead.  The governor turns over the dispatching of Quintus to his wife.  She goes to Quintus with some wine.  As she pours the wine for him, her body guards rush in to kill Quintus.  Quintus is able to wound or kill all the guards.  He then slaps the governor's wife across the face, knocking her down.  He rushes out.

Quintus returns to Arianne.  He falls off his horse and she rushes over to him.  She kisses him.  Quintus says:  "My name is Quintus Dias and I am a fugitive of Rome.  This is neither the beginning or the end of my story." 


Good action movie with lots of gore and blood.  The film is based on an old legend with an historically wrong ending.  Michael Fassbender is very good as the hero Centurion Quintus Dias. After the fate of the 9th legion, he leads a group of surviving Romans in an attempt to escape from the great woman tracker Etain and her group of Roman hunters. The action in the film never seems to stop.  The film is good historically because it deals with the fate of the future Scotland at the hands of the invading Romans.  The Picts were only one of quite a few native peoples in the future Scotland.  The natives together stopped the Romans from conquering all of Scotland.  The film was partly shot on location in Scotland.  There's some great views of some of the mountains of Scotland in the film.  The area was completely devoid of any signs of civilization. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:

Before the Roman conquest of Britain – the Picts were a confederation of Celtic tribes living in today’s eastern and northern Scotland. They lasted until the 10th century, when they merged with the Gaels.  They spoke the extinct Pictish language.

55 and 54 BC – expeditions of Julius Caesar in Britain; Britain establishes diplomatic and trading links with the Romans.

55 BC - the 40s AD – the relationship of Britain and Rome was one of tribute, hostages and client states, but with no direct military occupation.

34, 27 and 25 BC – Emperor Augustus prepares invasions of Britain. The 34 invasion called off because of revolts in other parts of the Roman empire. The second was called off because the Britons were ready to come to terms with the Romans. The 25 invasion. Was called of because of revolts in other parts of the empire.

By the 40s AD – in Britain Catuvellauni had displaced the Trinovantes as the most powerful kingdom in south-eastern Britain.

40 – Caligula plans a campaign against Britain. The invasion is not made, but the run-up to it provided the Roman army with experience and facilities that would make a later invasion possible.

43 AD – the Roman conquest of Britain begins under Claudius. His general Aulus Plautius serves as first governor of Britannia. He was put in charge of the 2nd, 9th, 14th and 20th Roman legions.

60 or 61 --  Queen Boudica leads a revolt against the Romans. 

71  --  the start of Roman invasion of North Britain (Scotland).  The Romans build a series of military camps in the north along what came to be called Gask Ridge. From here they controlled access to the glens to and from the Scottish Highlands.  They also built fortification throughout the Scottish Lowlands (northeastern Scotland).

76 – the Silures are finally conquered by Sextus Julius Frontinus.

78-84  --  reign of Governor Agricola.  He virtually exterminates the Ordovices of north Wales.  He then invades Anglesey and forces the inhabitants to sue for peace. And he reestablishes control over the Brigantes of northern England and the Selgovae of the southern coast of Scotland.

83 and 84 – Agricola goes north along Scotland's eastern and northern coasts, defeating the area’s native people. He wins a big victory over the northern British peoples led by Calgacus at the Battle of Mons Graupius.  He built new fortifications in northeastern Scotland along the Highland Line (that separates the Highland area of Scotland from the Lowland area).

117  --  it has been said that the IX Roman legion disappeared at this time in Britain.  But now it is believed that they perished in the Middle East.

122 --  Hadrian's wall built across northern England.


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