“Assassins Creed” (2016)
Running Time: 115 minutes
Written by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Featuring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams.
Cal Lynch: “We work in the dark to serve the light. We are assassins.“
As I have said in other reviews, Michael Fassbender has been making a lot of movies per year since his break last decade in “300” (2006). This film was one of four films he appeared in last year. To be fair they were all fairly ordinary with the Oscar hopeful “The Light Between Oceans” (2016) being the most disappointing. Now comes “Assassins Creed” (2016) which has now been released on DVD and Blu-ray, which oddly may be the most personal to Fassbender as he served as one of the main producers on this video game adaptation. The problem with making so many films is that saying yes to something that isn’t going to be made for months means that the quality can slip leading to mediocre movies. Recently there have been more than a few films that Fassbender has appeared in that have been at best middle of the road or at worst just terrible. While “Assassins Creed” is nowhere near a bad movie, it does come across as slightly mishandled with a muddled plot and narrative – which is something it has in common with even the greatest video game adaptions.
The film is based around Callum (Michael Fassbender) who has been sentenced to death for a suspected murder, but is rescued from execution by the Abstergo Foundation, which fakes his death, and transports him to their facility in Madrid, Spain. He is told that the Templars are searching for the Apple, which contains the genetic code for free will, in order to subjugate the human race. Sofia (Marion Cotillard), the head scientist, reveals that Callum is a descendant of Aguilar (a member of the Assassins Creed) and conscripts him to the Animus, which allows him to relive Aguilar’s genetic memories so that Abstergo can learn the current whereabouts of the Apple.
This movie does have some very good points, so it is not a total failure by any means. One of the strongest reasons to see any movie with Michael Fassbender is to see the man himself, I have no doubt at all that he gives 100% in all his performances so you know he has done everything in his power to make sure the quality of any movie he appears in is at its best. That does not mean that every movie he has appeared in is great, this unfortunately applies to “Assassins Creed”.
The plot of the film is fairly simple, it also follows many video game premises, that is to find an item and to do that there are many lessons that need to be learned as well as obstacles that need to be overcome. The narrative on the other hand is for me where the film fails to deliver, it becomes mired down in jargon as well as needless exposition from many of the supporting characters where the obvious is stated far too much.
The action, particularly that takes pace in 15th century Spain is so good and cinematic that it almost makes up for the action set in the present. As I have said Fassbender is committed, this shows in all the fights that he takes part in – he has obviously trained for this film and it shows. There is nothing better than a director having the option not to cut away from an actor who can perform many of his own stunts, so it is a shock that sometimes it can be difficult to see Fassbender in this part of the movie. Where the action does fall down, is when the director cuts from Callum attached to the animus and him actually in the past. It appears that the filmmakers have spent so much time prepping the audience for how the time travel aspect of this film works (probably also spending too much of the budget on it as well) that the cutting between past and present is so jarring it is hard to appreciate either time period.
The director, Justin Kurzel, who made an impression on Fassbender with his use of low budgets while delivering a great looking film on “Macbeth” (2015) flounders here a little with the expectations that are required from a film with a relatively large budget as well as a cast that can be considered to not only feature A list lead actors in Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard, but also A list character actors in Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams. In effect what we have here is a film that is not greater than the sum of its parts, with no fault to anyone but just inexperience as well as possibly a story that has one thing going for it, but flounders after that.
Of course the hope is that this will or would have led to a series of films that would have followed the warring Assassins against the evil Templars, however with the film only generating US$240 million worldwide as well as the fact that it made little or no impact in the US itself any talk of a sequel is probably dead.
This is not a bad film, it does have some moments of terrific action as well as the cast being top notch. I can only guess what this movie could have felt and looked like in the hands of an experienced director who could take all of the disparate elements weaving them into something more entertaining. In saying that I do recommend watching this film but owning it would only be for those people who could re-watch it, unfortunately I am not one of those.
“Assassins Creed” is out now on DVD & Blu-ray.