Last Friday, after plunking myself down for an evening with Netflix Instant on the Wii, two episodes of Doctor Who and the beginning of a long overdue Buffy rewatch (yeah, it was that kind of night) I watched Centurion. Against the judgment of many a film critic, yes, but who am I to deny the lure of Neil Marshall, lots of ax-wielding gore, and Olga Kurylenko?
Centurion is a period action flick with a unique task. It clearly makes efforts to be both historically accurate and groundbreaking (in effect, being groundbreaking by being historically accurate) from language, to costuming (as it turns out though, the Picts used to fight naked, oh well), to a multiracial cast, to the female warriors the movie showcases. Which puts Neil Marshall on tentative ground. He’s already staked his name as a game-changer in what is considered a boy’s club genre with The Descent. By making the cast entirely female, the story took gender tropes, that horror films typically take on as a mandate, out of the equation. But Centurion would of course not be all female, and to have too many at the forefront would be unrealistic. Too few and the villain, Etain, would simply be a novelty. Personally, I think he handled the numbers game well, at least. There are a few females, one with actual lines even, backing up Etain on the Pict side of the story; a speaking female on the Roman side, and one featured in the middle. However, what he did with this balanced casting is another issue.
Bechdel Test, Smechdel Test, a woman doesn't need a tongue to be heard
A part of me wishes that Olga Kurlenko was not so damn attractive, because it may just be me, but there seems to be something inherently beastly about her. The role of Etain is surprisingly believable on her, even if she doesn’t actually have the muscle mass to wield a weapon as effectively as she does in the movie. What can you do, they only make actresses in certain shapes and sizes these days. But like Marshall, Kurylenko clearly made an effort, evidenced in her fight scenes that feature her mostly from the front and by fault of her costuming her hair pushed back from her face, leaving little room for a stunt double. Not to mention, playing a mute lady warrior is not as easy as it sounds, particularly this one. Every silent moment is intense, and in every way Kurylenko embodies a woman intent on the hunt. As our angelic love interest tells our hero Quintius Dias, “Her soul is an empty vessel. Only Roman blood can fill it.”
Yeah, this girl’s got issues.