Four Roman solders are sent on a special mission to find a cure for a deadly plague in the independent feature film 141 A.D. – Mission to Dacia. Check out our review.
The Year is 141 A.D. in the Roman province of Dacia. An unusual appearance of a comet in the night sky coincides with a deadly epidemic spreading among cantoned soldiers in a Roman fort. Ancient astrologers automatically assume it is a bad sign that will bring misfortune and death as doctors are overcome by the situation. No one knows the cause of this disease and the number of deaths is steadily increasing. Four Roman explorers, led by the experienced Centurion Marcus along with his comrades Aquila, Tertius, and Nerva are sent by the commander of the fort – Prefect Cornelius Fulvius on a special mission. They must travel to the unknown and unconquered territories beyond the empire’s border lands ruled over by the Free Dacians in order to find a solution to the plague. The journey of these Romans to the mysterious Serpent Mountains becomes unexpected and adventurous.
Before I viewed the movie, I immediately loved its title, 141 A.D. Mission in Dacia, as it brought home memories of the old 80’s VHS action sequels that usually starred Chuck Norris. ‘Missing In Action 2 The Beginning’ or ‘Delta Force 2 The Colombian Connection’; 141 A.D. Mission in Dacia fitted right in. Of course, it has nothing really in common with any of them, it was just a humorous memory I wanted to share. Anyway, 141 A.D. which is how I will refer to it for the sake of this review, is of course set in Ancient Rome; a time and place so notoriously difficult to get right that since it’s cinemascope heydays of the 50’s, even Hollywood’s big bucks have shied away from this era. These days Roman Epics are simply far too expensive and far too risky to take a gamble on.
Full marks then to Director Octavian Repede who, on a slither of the budget of even Hollywood’s cheapest films, has concocted an adventure story that at least attempts to evoke the memory of traditional sword and shield movies. Here we see real actors and who I assume are actual military re-enactors performing in real locations instead of the CGI filled animated sequences of larger movies. It’s good to see all these people taking part in the film however it is also this back-to-basics approach that sometimes lets the film down.
In 141 A.D. Roman Centurion Marcus ‘Agustin Ungureanu’ is assigned to lead a quest in which he is required to find the cure for a plague that is spreading quickly around his camp. The elders and scholars of his base believe the disease is linked to a comet seen in the night sky. Marcus burns with the need to find the solution and gathers together a team of soldiers to march towards the Serpent Mountains in order to find the answers they are looking for.
Yes they discover some answers but not without some bloodshed a plus point of the film is that the quest is plausible on a human scale, Repede’s editing helps us follow the strategy of the fights and the decision to keep the shots of the battles to close-ups is initially off-putting but understandable, that said it does give us a sense of being suffocated by the swordplay of both sides. Another major positive of 141 A.D. is that it is at least interested in its period and the conversations between the actors on the quest or around the camp fire give us an insight into what kinds of Romans and barbarians may have lived back then. As well as that some of the cinematography is great with sweeping shots of the Romanian landscapes and vistas, cinematographer Tudor Porumb obviously used Michael Mann’s Last Of The Mohicans as an influence.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of action within the 82 minute run time, the film consists mainly of walking and talking scenes that only manage to give us the impression of a stock theatre company. There tends to be a real lack of energy during the story and this added to the lack of action and jeopardy mean that the stakes don’t feel particularly high and the audience fails to get excited or nervous with regards to the fate of the protagonists. This is a huge problem in a quest movie where the story lives or dies by the people on the quest and because we don’t feel anything for them we are left a little cold.
141 A.D. Mission in Dacia is a decent effort to film a tricky period and there are a few nice moments however there aren’t enough of these to make us forget the many problems the film has. A decent effort but more sword and shield play desperately needed.