DVD Rating: ***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

Read Owen Van Spall's film review of Centurion

If, in her role as the Pictish tracker Etain in Centurion, Olga Kurylenko does not get to utter a single line, something similar is true of the film's DP Sam McCurdy on the audio commentary. It is not that his tongue had been cut out by ruthless Roman invaders, but rather that he does not show up till more than halfway through the proceedings – although fortunately director Neil Marshall, production designer Simon Bowles and special make-up effects designer Paul Hyett are rarely lost for words.

Marshall describes the twin pressures for him first to remove "character beats" from the screenplay's first draft, and then to trim many of the shot scenes, and tells of his heroic fights to keep the fort raid and bar brawl sequences. Some scenes, such as a raunchy sexual encounter between protagonist Quintus (Michael Fassbender) and a local outcast (Imogen Poots) were to end up lost on the cutting room floor, while six others can be seen in the disc's 'deleted scenes' section (with optional director's commentary) - including a rousing speech delivered by general Virilus (Dominic West) to his men in the Sixth Legion, (rightly) cut for being too clichéd in a film whose gritty documentary style is designed to break away from the usual sword-and-sandal conventions.

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In Centurion, "landscape is very much a character", and so the commentators regale us with stories about putting their lead actors on isolated mountains in -18°C temperatures on the first day of shooting, and filming them swimming about in genuinely icy waters. Once the decision was made to have the Picts speak Scots-Gaelic, the cast had to learn their lines phonetically. That fellow in Agricola's court who has a limb sliced off with a sword was "a real amputee with a fake leg", and every effort was made to have the in-camera effects merge seamlessly with the CGI. It was a film made with "not much money, not much time", but "everybody mucked in", even if "some of those severed heads went missing on the last day".

The four short making-of featurettes are all notable for the full participation of cast and crew. The Lost Legion concerns the myth, "better than the truth", which has inspired the film's story; Getting Down And Dirty deals with locations and sets; Guts And Gore has Marshall declaring "I'm not one to hold back when it comes to bloodletting on screen"; and Fireballs, Stunts And Mayhem documents the film's stunt work, horse riding and fighting. There are also six minutes of entirely unnecessary outtakes, and two rather good slideshow-format galleries.

Reviewed on: 18 Aug 2010
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Centurion packshot
A group of Romans struggle for survival after a guerilla attack.
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Product Code: P926401000

Region: 2

Ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen

Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1

Extras: Audio commentary, four featurettes, deleted scenes (with optional director

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