Centurion ★★

I intentionally watched this right off the back of Kevin MacDonald's 'The Eagle' knowing they were treading on very similar turf, dealing with the missing Ninth Legion in ancient Britain. Centurion I knew would be a very different beast under Neil Marshall, the closest the UK has perhaps gotten to our own version of John Carpenter - a director who loves a movie to entertain you with very little subtlety, a potential master of the guilty pleasure. I expected to enjoy this much more of the two... and for half of Centurion, I did; then it all went so very very wrong.

See the whole thing starts out with Marshall at, perhaps, his best; a tough protagonist in the ever-engaging Michael Fassbender (still the most prolific, talented Hollywood name people have never heard of), an instantly likeable assortment of Roman soldiers led by an ebullient Dominic West, and a quite clear mission statement in terms of narrative. What starts out a war movie soon becomes a classic tale of a rogue band of men, deep in enemy territory, fighting for their lives - which, bizarrely, is where Marshall completely loses his grasp on the story. I rapidly became very bored as the narrative slows to a crawl, foolishly trying to add a potential romantic interest for Fassbender's character into the mix, before descending into a slightly bonkers climax that open-ends the whole thing in a way that left me very unfulfilled. Marshall does so much right, is the annoying thing - he tones down the OTT evident in Doomsday, he knows how to keep the pace at a steady level & his grasp of action remains excellent, plus he populates the supporting ranks with lots of fine Brit talent - Liam Cunningham, Noel Clarke, David Morrissey. Then he goes and wastes most of them, or gives too much time to Olga Kurylenko's baffling antagonist, who worked much better in Marshall's head than in reality. I also couldn't help find the comic-book use of claret during the savage bouts of violence across the piece ridiculous enough to often take me out of the action, sadly.

For about 50 or so minutes, Centurion I enjoyed much more than The Eagle; it had a great yard of pace, a compelling story, decent acting with a typically-hammy script, nice production design and solid bouts of action. The last 40 minutes it just goes completely off the rails, the lack of depth beyond the superficial evident and even Fassbender struggles, unlike usual, to hold the screen as Marshall loses his way. Ultimately, probably his least successful movie to date.