It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu once made a film called "The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice." "Centurion" might be thought of as "The Color of Red Guts Over Mountains," because that, as much as anything, describes what it is about.
The story is stripped down to an epic, feature-length chase. Stranded behind enemy lines, a small band of Roman soldiers are hunted by a tribe of Celtic Picts through the forbidding Highland scenery of ancient Scotland. They run and run and jump and climb and eat a kind of prototypical free-range haggis from the belly of a freshly killed stag, then run and run — monotonously — some more.
Most of the characters are so characterless that you can't tell who they are when they get impaled or beheaded, and you can't remember who they used to be after they're dispatched. Not that it matters. This leaves plenty of time for staring at spectacularly craggy landscapes in white, gray, blue and green, relieved by lovely splashes of bright red during the fighting and torture scenes, of which there are too few.
Perhaps you're not used to thinking of imploding and exploding brain matter, flayed torsos and severed limbs in terms of abstract aesthetic beauty. Well, think again. Writer-director Neil Marshall (whose "The Descent" is one of the finest, most harrowing horror films of the new century) shoots his head-to-head (or axe-to-head) combat violence in jittery Strobo-Vision, a technique that paradoxically makes the explicit carnage look less realistic and more like cartoony "Evil Dead" splatter. The eruptions of red serve as welcome compositional elements, providing the only vibrant color from the warm part of the spectrum. Never mind who's getting slaughtered, that red is gore-geous.