Centurion

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(2010) ★★★½

Channel 5: Sunday 18 October, 9pm

The Descent director Neil Marshall takes a stab at the mythic tale of the Ninth Legion, the elite Roman outfit which vanished in the wilderness of northern Britain in 117 AD. Several stabs, actually, and not a few almighty whacks with swords hacking off heads. (Kevin MacDonald’s The Eagle is a more sedate version of the same story.)

By 117 AD, the Roman invasion of Britain has long been stalled in the north by the guerrilla tactics of the Picts, led by Ulrich Thomsen. After the 9th Legion’s commander Dominic West is captured during an ambush, centurion Michael Fassbender leads the rescue mission. Not everyone thinks it’s such a great idea to follow the savage Picts: “We might as well slit our own throats here.”

Olga Kurylenko is a mute tracker in another brutally efficient genre piece from Marshall, closer in spirit to the chaotic B-pic thrills of his Doomsday than to the pure horror of The Descent. And forget the likes of Braveheart and Gladiator, there’s no pretence of a greater glory here – just blood and guts and gore, and lots of it. All the while, moving like a chariot on fire. It’s why Marshall’s been entrusted with Game of Thrones’ most epic episodes.

Certificate: 15

Duration: 94min

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