During the Spanish war of Grenada in 1492, Aguilar de Nerha is sworn into a secret society of assassins who are at war with the Knights Templar. Moving forward to the present day, Callum Lynch is about to be executed for murder. However, when his execution is faked and he is whisked away to the Abstergo Foundation, it is revealed that Callum is Aguilar’s descendant.
Furthermore, strapped to a time-travelling machine called the Animus, Callum must relive Aguilar’s memories so that he can recover the fabled Apple of Eden. Rumoured to be able to cure violence, the Abstergo Foundation desperately want to synthesise its genetic code and bring about world peace – but can Callum find it before the Knight Templars do?
… a time-travelling thriller without any of the requisite thrills.
Ok. -So you’ve got it, yeah?
A guy in the present is forced back into the memories of his ancestor to find an apple. Yep. That’s the level we’re operating at here in director Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of the video game Assassin’s Creed.
Unfortunately though, what makes for a good video game plotline isn’t the same stuff from which arresting film dramas are made of. Scrambling through a plotline that pays more adherence to the video game than its characters’ motives, Assassin’s Creed quickly becomes an untidy collection of cut-scenes with some the best actors on the planet.
Michael Fassbender gets to play Callum, whose scenes of incarceration are a long way from his breakout performance in Steve McQueen’s Hunger, and Macbeth co-star Marion Cotillard is on hand to help pull the emotional scenery. Piling on even more gravitas, Jeremy Irons is here for the paycheck as are the surprise arrivals of Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling. However, sadly nobody told the scriptwriters that they’d need a story and dialogue equal to those who would deliver it.
As a result, what you have is much standing on rooftops, people falling off buildings and seasoned thesps growling in the shadows in between the numerous fight scenes. Seemingly lost in permanently gritty lighting, any connection to the past, future or present is quickly lost in swallowed dialogue. Add to this a series of action scenes which are so hopelessly sped-up, that you’d seriously be forgiven for expecting Benny Hill to appear with a milk float of half-naked women. (-Look it up, kids. It’s on Youtube and -spoiler alert- it’s just as dated as this film that I’ve been watching).
I mean, don’t get me wrong. There is no shortage of money being spent here. From the CGI, stellar casting and Hans Zimmer-esque score, clearly the filmmakers thought they were onto something big. Possibly buoyed up by dreams debuting a new action franchise, the sad truth is you’d need to reboot this franchise from level one because this film is a mess.
Maybe at a push, marginally better than Zack Snyder’s 300, Assassin’s Creed is a time-travelling thriller without any of the requisite thrills. For whilst its cast fall across the screen and do their best to parkour their way through the expositional prose, it’s all done without any semblance of subplot or stakes beyond killing bad guys.
By borrowing heavily from The Matrix and the look of Simon West’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, what you end up with is a sweaty and sandy version of Aeon Flux which steals just about the same amount of time and life from your soul.
In short, if you’re a fan of the game then play the game. If you’re a fan of cinema jump in another direction because in this movie there are no soft landings.