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Film review: ASSASSIN’S CREED, from ‘Built For Speed’

The adaptation of video games to the cinema screen has generally been an unhappy one. Without the thrill of interaction and with a game’s wafer thin plot barely providing a decent film narrative, video games adaptations – from the execrable Super Mario Brothers to last year’s lumbering Warcraft – have usually been silly and dull. Assassin’s Creed promised a little more as it was based not only on a video game but also a popular graphic novel series and had Snowtown director Justin Kurzel at the helm. While this film has some exciting and inventive moments and a couple of amusingly crazy ideas that raise it a little above the average computer game adaptation, it’s still a mess.

The ridiculous plot involves a 500-year-old battle between conspiracy theory pin-ups The Knights Templar – who, according to this film, were once in cahoots with the Spanish Inquisition – and their nemeses, a band of elite ninja-like mercenaries known as The Assassins who, in the Middle Ages, collaborated with the Muslim sultans occupying parts of Spain. Their conflict is dubiously linked to a present day quest by scientist Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), the CEO of the mysterious Abstergo Company to obtain the Apple of Eden which disappeared during the inquisition and which, he claims, can eliminate free will and end human violence. To search for the apple, Rikkin’s daughter and chief scientist Sophia (Marion Cotillard) attaches ultra-violent criminals to a virtual reality device that transports their consciousness Avatar-like into the body of a 15th century assassin of whom they are a distant relative. The man who the loopy scientists think has the best chance of finding the apple is condemned murderer Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) whose consciousness they transport into the body of his assassin ancestor Aguilar de Nerha.

The story is every bit as ludicrous on screen as it sounds on paper but admirably Kurzel tries to maintain the pretence of a coherent plot for about half the film’s length before letting it descend into chaotic silliness. When the dodgy and badly explained time travel device starts going nuts and time periods begin colliding it’s anybody’s guess what the hell is going on.

Along the way there are a few energetic action scenes that showcase the Assassins’ elite combat skills although too many of these scenes are filmed in near darkness with a dull, grimy monochrome colour scheme, wonky camera work and infuriatingly choppy editing.

As Lynch, Michael Fassbender elevates the material with a typically intense performance although in the scenes where he plays the hooded, cgi-enhanced Aguilar, his faced is so obscured it could have been anyone. Marion Cotillard is good in just about any role and she brings intelligence and dignity to the character of chief scientist Sophia Rikkin but still, there’s a painful sense of her slumming it here. Jeremy Irons does some typically British scenery chomping as Sophia’s father Alan Rikkin and Abstergo CEO making him entertaining to watch despite the silly role.

Bolstered by its cast Assassins Creed is slightly above average for a video game adaptation but it’s still a slog.

Nick’s rating: **

Genre: Action/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Justin Kurzel.

Release date: 1st January 2016.

Running time: 116 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show

 

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