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Centurion Quintus Dias

Centurion is a 2010 film written and directed by Neil Marshall, the director of Dog Soldiers, The Descent and Doomsday, and starring Michael Fassbender and Olga Kurylenko.

The film explores the possible fate of the Legio IX Hispania, or the legendary Ninth Legion, that mysteriously disappeared from Roman records in the early second century AD, for no given reason.

Centurion contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Etain's eventual death at the hands of Quintus is played tragically, showing that she was just as much a victim of this conflict as everyone else.
  • Anachronism Stew: The name "Hindu Kush" is mentioned here, yet historically, it was first used around 800 years later.
  • Animal Motifs: Etain wears plenty of animal furs, particularly wolf pelts to illustrate how like a wolf she is herself.
  • Armor Is Useless: Despite the obvious advantage of having heavy armor, the Romans don't seem to be getting much benefit from it. There are numerous shots of Picts killing Roman Legionaires without even having to bother with trying to find a chink in their armor, this despite the fact that Roman armor was quite advanced for its time and a noticeable advantage.
  • Artistic License – Martial Arts: Our heroes' swashbuckling fighting styles would not have been used by Roman soldiers, who actually favored a Boring, but Practical short-ranged style based on Celtiberian sword fighting. Dias has an excuse, he was trained by his father, a gladiator, who would have showy moves, but not the rest.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The Picts speak Scots-Gaelic. No record of the Pictish language exists, and the closest modern language to it is theorized to be Welsh, but Neil Marshall thought it would be too confusing to have a Scottish tribe speaking Welsh.
  • Ax-Crazy: Aeron is especially sadistic in battle.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The 9th Legion is wiped out, and Quintus is a fugitive from Roman society, but he retires with his hot new girlfriend to an idyllic little cottage.
  • Black Vikings:
    • The film features Noel Clarke, an English actor with Afro-Caribbean heritage playing "Macros", a refugee from Numidia, and a legionary from the second cohort of the Ninth Legion. Schoolboy error here: Numidia, modern-day Tunisia, was populated by light/brown-skinned Berbers and descendants of Phoenicians colonizers. The writer had probably meant Nubia, the country in modern-day Sudan.
    • The same Roman unit also features Riz Ahmed playing Tarak, the company cook, who "hails from the Hindu Kush" (which neatly matches Ahmed's own Pakistani ancestry). This one is semi-plausible, as odd as it might sound, as at the time, the Hindu Kush had some contact with the Eastern Mediterranean area through the large Parthian Empire. Although it would be admittedly a long road, it would not be impossible for a local to end up in Roman territories.
  • Book Ends / Ironic Echo: "My name is Quintus Dias. I am a soldier/fugitive of Rome, and this is neither the beginning nor the end of my story."
  • The Brute: Vortix, a large warrior with a really large axe.
  • Call That a Formation?: The Ninth Legion tries to fight in formation, but the Pict strategy of rolling flaming boulders down a hill breaks their formation up, and then they attack before the Romans can reform. After the fall of the legion, none of the survivors are ever shown using any kind of formation tactics.
  • Chef of Iron: Tarak.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Subverted. Tarak identifies death cap mushrooms early on and Brick sees them in the stew Arianne serves them, but it turns out he's wrong.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Played with. Macros is a champion runner and so Quintus knows that Thax is lying when he says Macros wasn't able to outrun the wolves.
  • Cradling Your Kill: Done with Etain after being stabbed in the stomach by Quintus.
  • Crippling the Competition: When chased by a pack of wolves, Thax cuts Macros' tendon and leaves him behind, so the wolves at the very least stop to eat him and maybe even get their fill, leaving Thax safe.
  • Dark Action Girl: Aeron doesn't appear to have any personal grudges against the Romans and just fights for the sheer love of brutality. She's one of the most violent and sadistic fighters on the Pict side.
  • Dark Magical Girl: Etain's motivations are entirely personal, and special emphasis is placed on her being an Innocence Lost character. There is something supernatural about her, to the point that other characters speak about her as if she's a demon. Quintus wonders repeatedly how she has managed to track them so skillfully, implying this may be by magic, despite his dismissal of the idea.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Averted. The Roman side lacks an Action Girl, with the film's only female warriors, Etain and Aeron, fighting for the Picts. This would have been the case in the original script, where Arianne would fight Etain.
  • Dirty Coward: Thax. He cuts Macros' leg so he won't be able to outrun the wolves, and can escape while they kill him.
  • Double Agent: Romans think that Etain is a Pict turn-coat, working for them. She's The Mole, planted as a native guide by the Picts.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Etain is Gorlacon's Dragon but leads the army, and she is a more prominent character than him.
  • Dual Wielding: Etain uses a knife in one hand and an axe in the other in her fight with Dias.
  • Dwindling Party: Only Dias, Bothos, and Thax make it to Hadrian's Wall. Dias implicitly calls Thax out on his treachery, and Thax is killed in their ensuing struggle. Bothos is shot with an arrow by the Romans, who mistake him for a Pict, killing him. So Dias is the only one who makes it inside. Not that it matters anyways because the Romans try to kill him after all that to keep the fate of the Ninth Legion a secret. For a full rundown:
    • Tarak: Shot in the back by Vortix and Aeron.
    • Leonidas: Speared through the head by Etain.
    • Macros: Leg cut by Thax, who leaves him to the wolves.
    • Brick: Speared by Etain. He proceeds to spear himself even further to kill the Pict behind him.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Etain.
  • Empty Shell: Etain, as pointed out by Arianne:
    Arianne: Her soul is an empty vessel. Only Roman blood can fill it.
  • Eye Scream: Brick kills Aeron by stabbing her through the eye with an arrow that she shot into his back.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Doubles as a Bilingual Bonus. Virilus means manly in Latin, and General Virilus is very manly.
  • A Father to His Men: General Virilus is one, which is part of the reason so many of them try to rescue him from the Picts.
  • Foreign-Looking Font: The opening titles and subtitles use Papyrus.
  • Freudian Excuse: Etain has good reasons to hate the Romans.
  • Gorn: There is plenty of it. As expected of Neil Marshall.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Arianne's scar marking her as an outcast over being accused of witchcraft. It's almost completely covered by her hair and doesn't detract from her beauty at all.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: The Roman soldiers are part of an invading army yet all they're trying to do is rescue their general and get back home. The Picts are trying to fight off an invasion and want revenge for the prince's murder but at the same time they're ruthless and don't exactly treat their own people any better.
  • Groin Attack: During his fight with Vortix, Bothos knees him in the groin.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Arianne has a soft golden-blonde hair color, which helps her be the only good female character in the movie.
  • He Knows Too Much: In the end, the Roman High Command decides it would be better for the Ninth to vanish without a trace than admit that an entire Legion had been lost in action for the first time since Emperor Augustus. So they order the last survivor murdered to ensure that he cannot tell the tale of what really happened to anyone else. Quintus survives the attempted execution and then flees north of the wall.
  • Hero Killer: Etain is personally responsible for the deaths of General Virilus, Leonidas, and Brick.
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Inverted. The lone woman with the legion turns out to be a Mole for the Picts. Of course from the Picts' perspective, it's a straight example.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Aeron is stabbed by Ubriculius with an arrow she shot him with.
    • Brick is speared by Etain with a spear he used earlier in the final fight.
    • Etain is stabbed with her own knife by Dias.
  • Hope Spot: Eventually what's left of the group of Roman soldiers reach the frontier outpost, happy to be finally safe. The outpost turns out to be abandoned, with an order to retreat beyond currently constructed Hadrian Wall nailed to one of the beams.
  • Hot Witch: Arianne was accused of witchcraft, and deliberately creates the impression that she is a necromancer to protect herself, but she doesn't really have any magical powers, although she is an expert on woodcraft and herb lore. She's definitely at least hot.
  • Kubrick Stare: Seems to be Etain's only facial expression.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Pict archer Aeron is blonde and pale-skinned, dressing mainly in bright clothes. Unlike Etain, she's given no sympathetic motives and is portrayed to be just as ruthless as her male counterparts.
  • Loose Floorboard Hiding Spot: Arianne hides her Roman visitors underneath the floorboards of her hut when Etain and her warriors come calling.
  • Lost Roman Legion: The Ninth Legion. And by "lost" it means "wiped out to the last man and removed from the records to keep the defeat secret".
  • Made of Iron: Getting shot by Aeron makes Ubriculius only more annoyed, as he pulls the arrow out of his back and uses it to kill her, and by the end, he only dies when running a spear through himself to get the Pict behind him.
  • Made of Plasticine: Both the Romans and the Picts suffer absurd injuries that would require their bodies to be made out of putty.
  • Male Gaze: Interestingly inverted: when Etain kills Virilus, he's stripped down and she's fully clothed. Her costumes aren't particularly revealing throughout.
  • Masochist's Meal: At one point, the surviving legionaries, due to a lack of any gear or supplies, end up hunting for a doe and then start to eat the half-digested moss from inside its stomach, as they have neither time nor kindling of any kind for a better meal.
  • Maybe Ever After: Quintus and Arianne.
  • Mirroring Factions: The film examines that the Picts and the Romans are hardly different from each other at all since it ends with Arianne and Quintus ending up together, who were both branded outcasts by their people.
  • The Mole: Etain was raised to act as one to the Romans so the Picts could take their revenge.
  • Multinational Team: While they are all Roman soldiers (well, and a cook), the survivors of the ambush are a collection from all across the Empire and even outside its borders.
  • The Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Who decides the ultimate fate of the Ninth Legion's legacy.
  • Old Soldier: Ubriculius looks like he could be a father to rest of the men in the group. Lampshaded, as he notes his 20-year long service is almost finished.
  • Our Lady of Soundtrack Sorrow: And how - half of the soundtrack is based on a single-voice wail.
  • The Queen's Latin: The Romans have British/Irish accents.
    • Also the Picts have Scottish accents in a film predating the arrival of the Scots in the area.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: The Picts speak Scots Gaelic whereas in history, their language was remarkably similar to Welsh. Neil Marshall opted to use Scots Gaelic for fear of viewers getting confused about a Scottish army speaking Welsh.
  • Retirony: This was supposed to be Brick's last campaign before retirement. He even invokes the classic death flag of saying that he's planning to buy a farm.
  • Rule of Cool: The main driving force behind the movie, its plot and the (mis)adventures of the characters is how much cool stuff can be squeezed out of the Trapped Behind Enemy Lines scenario with Romans in Pict-populated Scotland.
  • Sacrificial Lion: General Virilus, who would rather die fighting than be led to a slaughter. Once he's dead, the surviving legionaries have no further reason to stay in the lands controlled by the Picts and he knows that, sacrificing himself so his men have no reason to risk their lives for him.
  • Savage Wolves: They end up chasing Thax and Macros. Thax cuts Macros' tendon so the wolves are busy with something, while he runs away.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: Etain, who leads the "hunting" party after the Roman survivors and always somehow finds a way to track them back, no matter what.
  • Scenery Porn: The film takes the whole mileage out of being allowed to film in the Cairngorms National Park.
  • Shirtless Scene: Quintus spends the first 20 minutes of the film shirtless. Ditto for Virilus when he's tied up in the Picts' camp.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Things go badly on the return, just outside of the Roman gate.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The armor is accurate for that time in Roman history. So are the gladii, AKA short swords used in the film by the Romans. Except the spears; for some reason they are older thrusting spears (hastae), not period-accurate javelins (pila) which have telltale elongated spearheads.
    • The clothing is on par with contemporary depictions of Picts, right down to the Celtic habit of putting white grease in their hair, which was discussed in the journals of Romans who battled the Celts and the Picts.
    • Women's status is depicted appropriately for what it was in Pict culture.
    • The language choice for the Picts, which would have been an approximation of a Celtic break-off language.
    • The stones that carry Pictish designs.
    • Depiction of Arianne's crannog, 100% accurate for the time period and the region.
    • The inscription in the fort found near the end is written in paleographically correct 2nd-Century Roman characters.
  • The Speechless: Etain had her tongue cut out by Romans and thus never speaks, though she screams once.
  • Taking You with Me: After being driven by a spear, Brick realises he's screwed anyway, so he drives it further, impaling one of his attackers.
  • Terrible Trio: The three main Picts chasing the Romans: Etain (The Dragon) has two primary henchmen: a blonde female archer named Aeron and Vortix, a large, axe-wielding warrior.
  • Spikes of Villainy: Etain's main weapon is a spear, with several spikes on it.
  • Tired of Running: After finding the frontier outpost abandoned, Dias invokes this verbatim (and he really is tired), ordering a Last Stand. His reasoning is simple: if they survive it (and the current terrain at least gives them a chance), they will be free to continue their journey in peace. If they die, then at least they won't be chased like wild animals anymore.
  • Token Romance: Dias and Arianne, though it only ends with a Maybe Ever After.
  • Translation Convention: The Scots-Gaelic is meant to represent the Picts' language, while naturally the English the Romans speak is supposed to be Latin.
  • The Unfought: Gorlacon, the leader of the Picts.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Etain. She's played by Olga Kurylenko, after all.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Thax, who murdered Gorlacon's son to keep him from alerting the Picts during a night infiltration and thus motivated Gorlacon into sending a hunting party led by Etain to kill the Ninth Legion survivors.
  • The Voiceless: Etain, due to Tongue Trauma.
  • You Killed My Father: One of Etain's good reasons to hate the Romans. Well if you want to be accurate it's "you killed my father, raped and murdered my mother, raped me and cut my tongue out".