Assassin's Creed

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Assassin's Creed
©Kerry Brown

This moody spin on the gaming smash hit stars Michael Fassbender and takes itself too seriously—but manages to serve up a convincing alternate reality.

Gamers will know exactly what Assassin’s Creed is; everyone else will need a little introduction to this solemn, brutal adaptation of the huge-selling computer game. Offering more than its fair share of head-scratching moments, it stars Michael Fassbender as a time-hopping member of the Assassins, a secret order said to be at loggerheads for centuries with the Knights Templar over possession of the sacred apple from the Garden of Eden.

If this freestyle plundering of medieval and religious history sounds a bit like The Da Vinci Code, it is, just a little. But as we hop between Madrid, London and Texas in 2016 and Andalusia in 1492 (with a quick stop in 1986 California) this is darker, more straight-faced and humor-free territory than Dan Brown's. A collision between moody, smoky swords-and-daggers historical fantasy and sleek modern-day sci-fi, the overall dimension-shattering vibe is more like The Matrix.

We meet Fassbender in two time periods. In 1492, he’s an assassin set on forcing the ruling sultan (Khalid Abdalla) into submission. In 2016, he’s a convicted criminal, Callum Lynch, rescued from the jaws of execution by a shadowy, Madrid-based scientific organization run by Sofia (Marion Cotillard) and her father Rikkin (Jeremy Irons). Where Assassin’s Creed demands full attention is the concept of "DNA memory" that links both periods. We watch as Callum essentially plays a virtual-reality experience controlling himself in the past, while in-the-wings Sofia and Rikkin play out their own family power games.

The film reunites Fassbender, Cotillard and director Justin Kurzel, who worked together on 2015’s Macbeth. Common to both movies is a brooding atmosphere and a bone-crushing, unsentimental approach to action and violence. The relentless gloom can feel oppressive, but there’s plenty of ambition here, especially in the layered storytelling and woozy sense of time and place, with plenty of soaring aerial shots that nod quietly to the all-seeing eye of a computer game.

By: Dave Calhoun

Posted:

Release details

Rated: PG-13
Release date: Wednesday December 21 2016
Duration: 115 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Justin Kurzel
Screenwriter: Bill Collage, Adam Cooper, Michael Lesslie
Cast: Michael Fassbender
Marion Cotillard
Michael Kenneth Williams
Jeremy Irons
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Tastemaker

I'm a gamer and have played all the Assassin's Creed games since the beginning. Movies based on games have never been great so I wasn't holding out much for this adaptation starring Michael Fassbender. Telling its own story about the Templars and the Assassins, Fassbender plays a criminal on death row who is snatched from his termination by Abstergo, the modern corporation run by the Templars. They seek to regress him via a piece of technology called the Animus in order to relive the key moments from a distant ancestor to find where he stowed the Apple of Eden, a device that can control humans and prevent free will. Whilst there is some free running, jumping from buildings and swashbuckling like in the games, the movie feels like it would have benefitted better by being a TV series with more stories from the past and a longer story ark leading to the revelation at the end. Rushed and focussing too much on the present day, this movie feels like a wasted opportunity. All the parts were there, it just wasn't executed in a way that made me care about the characters.