The Roman Ninth Legion is a favorite topic of movie makers and novelists. The movies include the forgettable Aishwarya Rai starrer The Last Legion (2007) and upcoming The Eagle (2011) and the novels include Stephen Bennett’s Last of the Ninth and Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth. The British film Centurion deals with the legion’s adventures against the Picts in 117 C.E.
Why this interest in the Ninth legion? Around 117 C.E, the legion disappeared in Britain like how the army of Cambyses II vanished in the Egyptian desert. There are many explanations for this disappearance: some think they perished in the Bar Kochba Revolt while other suggest it was in the conflict with the Parthians. In this movie, Neil Marshall, provides another explanation.
The movie is the swords and sandals version of The Seven Samurai. When their legion is decimated by the Picts (a visually stunning scene) and the General kidnapped, seven survivors decide to rescue him. They reach the Pict camp, but fail to unlock the General’s chains, thus leaving him to his death. The seven then decide to return back to the Romans who have moved to Hadrian’s Wall, but are chased by the Picts. Some survive, some don’t.
Being a plot driven action movie, it does not have much time for character development like Gladiator. There is action — chases, battles, torture — right from the start as if James Bond time traveled to the second century. Even if you have been saturated with Roman violence, this one takes it up a notch. It is a watchable movie: not a classic and not so bad either.