It is sometimes hard to imagine that the Romans occupied Britain from around 34 BC until 410 AD. This film takes place around the year 100 AD when there were multiple wild tribes, many of Celtic ancestry, surrounding the isle of civilization that the Romans brought to the British island. It is correct to say British when referring to the island during this period. It is not until the Anglo-Saxon invasions and occupation that the term England began to be applied. Anyway, back to the review, this is the story of a young Roman officer assigned to the British island at his own request to explore, discover, the facts around his father's disappearance along with the Roman Ninth Legion which his father led. One nice touch in the movie is the contrast between the Mediterranean style villas and gardens as compared to the animal skin huts of the wild tribes. The Romans brought written language, law, procedures, and a host of other technologies that helped them subdue the British wilderness. The story is a fairly predictable tale of adventure, of conflicts and misunderstandings revolved, of escape from danger and setting the world right again. It is an adventure tale and in my opinion was pretty well told. The primeval forests and rocky coasts of Britain are beautifully photographed. Roman soldiers who served for 12 years were given a farm in a conquered nation and the rough soldiers certainly earn their living when stationed on the outskirts of the Empire in Britain.
Channing Tatum does a respectable job of acting in the film as does Jamie Bell. Channing Tatum, as Marcus Flavius Aquila, is the son of the commanding officer of the Ninth Legion who crossed Hadrian's Wall and entered the depths of wild Caledonia. Aquila shows considerable leadership skills and bravery, is given honors and an honorable discharge, but then decides to stay in Britain to solve the mystery of the missing legion and the fate of his father, whose reputation has been disgraced by the disappearance of a full legion of men. The film is also about the relationship between Centurion Aquila and his Celtic slave, Esca, played by Jaime Bell. Together they cross Hadrian's wall and enter the wilderness north of the Roman territories.
The film is successful because it is not overly ambitious. There is a story to tell, characters to be developed, and this it does with realistic depictions of hand to hand warfare and the dirty living conditions of life at this time. Neither the Romans nor Celts are depicted as evil, just men in conflict with men, occupiers against the occupied.
Donald Sutherland plays the uncle of Aquila with wit and humor. The striking Tahar Rahim plays the son of the tribal chief of the Seal People who play a major role in the issue of whether the Roman Ninth Legion regains its honor.
I found this film to be good solid entertainment about a fascinating time in British history.