What to Watch: Centurion

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Based on the legend of the Ninth Legion, an army of 3000 unstoppable Roman warriors who vanished without trace, Centurion is the tale of their vicious conflict with a murderous adversary, the Picts.

 

Beginning in 117 AD, the narrative opens with a Roman soldier fleeing across a snowy landscape, saying:

“My name is Quintus Dias. I am a soldier of Rome, and this is neither the beginning, nor the end of my story.”

The Romans have been unable to fully conquer Britain, meeting the fiercest resistance in the north, reaching a harsh stalemate that’s lasted a gruelling twenty years. The Picts of Alba are engaging in a guerrilla campaignagainst the Roman forts along the Glenblocker line and the Gask Ridge at the southern border of the Scottish Highlands. At the Roman outpost of Pinnata Castra, Pictish warriors led by Vortix and Aeron force surprise and kill the entire garrison, taking only one survivor for questioning, the second-in-command, Centurion Quintus Dias, because he can speak the Pictish tongue. Dias is brought before the Pictish king Gorlacon, who has united the northern tribes. Dias is brutally interrogated, but two weeks later escapes on foot.

However, a messenger dispatched by the fort’s commander has reached Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor of Britannia, who wants to obtain favour with the Roman Senate, hoping to secure a transfer back to the comforts of Rome. He dispatches the Ninth Legion, under General Titus Flavius Virilus, to eradicate the Pictish threat and provides him with a female Celtic Brigantian scout called Etain. As the legion marches north it encounters Dias and rescues him from his pursuers, saving his neck just in the nick of time.

The film ends with Quintus Dias adjusting the narrative of the film’s opening line:

“My name is Quintus Dias. I am a fugitive of Rome, and this is neither the beginning, nor the end of my story.”

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