Assassin’s Creed (12a)
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard & Jeremy Irons
Running time: 2hrs 20mins
Cinematic adaptations of popular video games have had a rough ride, but with a powerhouse cast and a visionary filmmaker at the helm, Assassin’s Creed was tipped to buck the trend.
However, while Justin Kurzel’s broke through in 2015 with a haunting and visually arresting vision of Macbeth, his Assassin’s Creed movie is a major misfire. Teaming up with Macbeth stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, Kurzel has fashioned a clumsy, convoluted and fatally flawed popcorn yarn that is sure to plunge the future of the franchise into uncertainty.
Fassbender stars as Cal Lynch, a convicted murderer who is sentenced to death by lethal injection, only to be rescued by Dr Sofia Rikkin of Abstergo Industries, a modernised iteration of the Knights of Templar. Under their tutelage, Lynch – who is a direct descendant of 15th-century Spaniard Aguilar de Nerha – is launched into the Animus project, a Matrix-esque VR programme driven by revolutionary technology that allows its participants to travel back in time.
Lynch is tasked with finding the mysterious Golden Apple of Eden, which supposedly holds “the key to free will itself.” Traveling back to Andalucía in 1492, Lynch – working as part of the dedicated brotherhood known as the Assassin’s Creed – is forced to pursue the apple and deliver it back to Abstergo before the Knights of Templar capture it and use its power to “control all freedom of thought.”
And that’s where things get messy. Following a scene in which Cal is initiated into the Animus – a visceral, immersive sweeping sequence that catapults us 500 years back in time, the narrative loses any sense of structure. All of our time spent in Andalucía is accompanied by the Assassins and Knights parkouring their way through the streets. Ironically, these kinetic scenes are the most disengaging. They are not thrillingly captured nor make much sense. What should have been pulse-pounding turns out to be dull and listless.
The film zooms between the two timelines: the Assassins hunting for the apple and Lynch wondering what the fuck he is doing in Abstergo (he literally says it at one point as he sits down to tuck into a steak). However, neither of the narratives feel nuanced or developed. Fassbender gives the character a fair crack, but it is ultimately fruitless to make us care about Lynch with a script this flimsy. Other distinguished actors, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling to name a few, seem to be going through the motions, but perhaps that is because they’ve been around long enough to know when a project is a lost cause.
Assassin’s Creed may cater to hardened fans of the franchise – which has sold almost 100 million copies worldwide since launching in 2007 – but, as a movie-going experience, it’s instantly forgettable and is certainly a monumental fumble considering the talent at work here. That is not to say there won’t be a sequel. The perplexing third act certainly leaves room for future instalments but, considering the critical bloodbath, it’s difficult to see Assassin’s Creed getting off the ground. There may well be a great film to be made from these video game stories, but this has not paid off. Fassbender has also indicated that he intends to take a break from acting – understandable after the torturous experience of trying to act out the scripts for X-Men: Apocalypse and this – so a sequel seems to be doubtful at this stage.
2.5 out of 5 Nerds