Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Ariane Labed, Denis Menochet
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Released: 1st Jan 2017
Video game adaptations like books are a tricky business to convert into film. whereas books have had more successes with the big screen e.g. Lord of the rings, Harry Potter, Gone with the wind the kind of billion-dollar success has always eluded video games. Taking a leap of faith to break the video game curse, Macbeth’s Justin Kurzel teams up again with his Lord and Lady Macbeth (Fassbender and Cotillard) taking on the popular stealthy history leaping video game franchise.
A mysterious company called Abstergo abducts Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a man sentenced to death in prison. Telling Callum they need him to help obtain an artefact lost in history, he relives the memories of his ancestor Aguilar (also Fassbender) an assassin in 15th Spain. These memories bring to light an ancient war between the group of assassins known as the Assassin’s creed and their foes the controlling Templars. Callum must decide for himself his role in this everlasting conflict and how much will he let the past dictate his future.
The main problem with trying to converting a medium you can spend countless hours on into film is how do you balance a story that will keep the audience engaged while still being able to capture the spirit and excitement of a game. What Kurzel and Co. gets right is the essence of the kind of action Assassin’s creed is famous for with most of the best action sequences taken placed in the past. Throughout these action sequences, they throw everything in including assassin weaponry such as wrist blades and smoke bombs and parkour like moves such as leaping across rooftops, banners, jumping from one building to another. One particularly great inclusion from the stealthy franchise is the Leap of the faith, a manoeuvre where the assassin swan dives from a building landing safely into a bale of hay. Choosing to shoot the stunt practically instead of 100% CGI, is a move that gives the scene a more realistic feel (also keeping it within the realm of realism you do not witness the landing) and earns them the title of highest stunt performed in film history.
While the expertly executed action is a joy to watch, unfortunately the same care has not been put into the details of the story or its characters. The balance of the past and present comes across rather uneven, with most of the character development spent in the present. Aguilar’s back-story isn’t explained, you don’t know why he joined the creed or what lead him there you are just meant to accept that he woke up one day and decided ‘I think I am going to join the assassin’s creed today’ because that pretty much is where his story starts, at his initiation. His entire story is meant to serve as a way of keeping an eye on the artefact, the apple of eden with incredible action scenes thrown in. With present day protagonist Callum, his development is more fleshed out yet that is not without its plot holes either. He starts off as a kid witnessing a murder of a family member then next minute it’s 20 years later and he is on death row for murder (for a pimp you later find out, even for Law & Order standards that is quite the sentencing leap). As the protagonist, Callum is not a very sympathetic character to get behind with his ambiguously violent past and somewhat mentally unstable behaviour there is not much to keep the audience on side, the supposed villains actually come off more sympathetic than the lead himself (at least in present day they do).
As far as video game adaptations go, it isn’t the worst film to have emerged. There is as much to like, as there is to crinkle your brows at puzzled, the thrilling action scenes keep your eyes glued to the screen and for the fans, the easter eggs are a nice touch. Assassin Creed is less of a hero’s journey and more of a tale of how an evil corporation push a convicted felon to have a phsychotic break, causing him melded with the memories of his 15th century assassin achestor…..Bring the kids!
2 ½ stars