Set in the days of the Roman Empire, Centurion follows the trials and travels of Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier sent to conquer what is now England with the fabled 9th Legion. His archnemesis and pursuer Etain is a Pictish warrior-tracker bent on vengeance for the Roman rape and slaughter of her family and the subsequent cutting out of her tongue.
Director Neil Marshall equates Etain’s violently-acquired speech disability with the assumption of an animal-like nature:
“Etain is kind of revenge incarnate. Her family were butchered by the Romans, she had her tongue cut out by the Romans, she’s had a hell of a time and she’s out for Roman blood,” Neil Marshall said. “She’s quite furious. Because one sense is not there – she can’t speak – all the others are more developed. She sees very well and hears very well: she is an animal!”
Indeed, throughout the movie Etain is referred to by such epithets as “she-wolf”, “demon”, “witch”… even by a fellow Pict who comments on her “stench” and taunts her with “Cat got your tongue?” The Romans are even worse in their abuse, assuming her lack of tongue and speech grants them sexual access.
With such fuel for revenge, it’s a small wonder she’s able to defeat Roman General Virilus in single combat.