Fassbender takes a stab at playing a brutal killer

by Gazette Reporter

IN A bizarre turn for gaming/cinematic relations, acclaimed Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) takes on the popular historical-stealth series, Assassin’s Creed (Cert 12A, 115 mins).
Given Kurzel’s respectable track record, many thought the director could finally be the one to destroy the old stereotype and actually deliver a decent videogame adaptation.
Unfortunately, despite some visual flair and a strong cast, Assassin’s Creed is an unbalanced, convoluted and ultimately lifeless action-adventure – a rigorous lesson in why a compelling story in a gaming context rarely (never) translates to the big screen.
We’re first introduced to Aguillar de Nerha (Michael Fassbender), an assassin in the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
After some mysterious oath-swearing, Assassin’s Creed jumps forward a few centuries, where we meet Callum Lynch – also played by Fassbender – a career criminal on Death Row.
After his execution, Callum wakes up in a lab, seemingly saved from death by Dr Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) – a scientist working on something called The Animus Project, which lets people relive the lives of their ancestors.
The machine allows Callum to inhabit the memories of Aguillar and will hopefully lead its owners, Abstergo Industries, to a mysterious artefact called The Apple of Eden.
Unfortunately, Abstergo is the modern-day incarnation of the villainous Templar Order and may not have Callum’s best interests in mind, or those of the human race, for that matter.
The tenuous links between past and present really muddy the narrative waters in Assassin’s Creed – a criticism often levelled at the original videogame series.
However, these faults are more forgivable in a videogame context; here they serve only to undermine the narrative flow and complicate an already overly convoluted plot.
The modern-day segments provide all of Callum’s background and motivation; yet they yield barely any action or solid tension.
Consequently, we spend the film’s most exciting segments – those set in the past – having to root for a character we know next to nothing about.
Split between these two protagonists, it’s not until the film’s final act that we get anything resembling a compelling narrative drive.
Furthermore, it takes Assassin’s Creed a full hour to deliver the free-running rooftop action of the source material. It’s a shame – these intense, wonderfully choreographed scenes are the film’s stand-out segments.
Equipped with such a wonderful cast – which also includes Michael Kenneth Williams and Jeremy Irons – you’d think the acting might be Assassin’s Creed’s saving grace.
Unfortunately, the dialogue is so densely packed with vague musings and tiresome riddles that the cast is given little to work with.
The usually fantastic Fassbender has little more to do than stand around on rooftops, brooding. Still, the scenes with him and Cotillard are charged with enough of the actors’ raw talent to hold our attention.
Thankfully, much of Kurzel’s film is visually stunning, particularly the chaotic, period-set segments where most of the action takes place – it’s nearly worth a watch for these alone.
Otherwise, given the talent behind it, Assassin’s Creed is a huge disappointment, fraught with ill-conceived narrative abstractions, villainous overkill and a plot that suddenly just sort of ends.
The conclusion screams for a sequel – one I doubt we’ll ever get.
Verdict: 4/10

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