Synopsis: Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.
Cast: ASSASSIN’S CREED stars Academy Award® nominee Michael Fassbender (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 12 Years a Slave) and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises, La Vie en Rose). (Source – 20th Century Fox Publicity)
For the uninitiated (like me), some grasp of history will be beneficial for this unnecessarily dense and serious film from Australian director Justin Kurzel about Assassins and Templar Knights engaged in a bitter feud over an apple.
Not just any apple mind you, but the Apple of Eden.
“The Apple is Everything. Nothing is True. Everything is Permitted”
1492 in Andalusia Spain, it is the Inquisition and Sultan Muhammad is vulnerable. We are at a point in history where the Islamic Caliphate was toppled out of the Iberian Peninsula and the location of the sacred fruit that contains the secret to controlling human thought is about to be revealed.
The film then jumps to Baja California, it is 1986 and a boy on a BMX bike is attempting tricks on a rooftop, crashing his bike onto a mattress before heading home to find his mother slain in their kitchen. A man stands in the shadows nearby. Is it the boy’s father?
The man says “They found us. Live a life in the shadows” before a convoy of sinister looking vehicles with Texas numberplates roll up to the shantytown where the boy lives. The man urges him to run and he does just that, fleeing on foot before we jump in time again…to…
30 years later at the Department of Criminal Justice Facility in Texas where Michael Fassbender is sitting on the floor of a cell, sketching nightmarish visions in charcoal.
“Are you here to save my soul?” he asks the priest who enters his cell.
“It’s your birthday” replies the religious man.
“The party’s just getting started responds Fassbender’s character, before continuing “Sit down, you’re making me nervous”.The priest has a special present in store for the prisoner… A lethal injection.
Or perhaps not.
Fassbender is roused from his catatonic state to find Marion Cotillard sitting beside him explaining that for all intents and purposes he is dead, but in reality he IS ALIVE(!!) and he has become an acquisition of the “shadowy biotechnology company Abstergo Industries (which it turns out) serves as the front for the Knights Templar, imprisoning Assassins and using a device called “The Animus” to tap their genetic memories and uncover the secrets of their ancestors.”
This handy explanation courtesy of the film’s production notes might be a necessary reference for anyone struggling to keep up with the rapid development of this film’s story.
Bear in mind what I’ve described is perhaps the first 15-20 minutes of the film which is literally an assault on your senses.
It turns out that the tech giant is searching for the “cure for violence” But of course they need to resort to violence to do so.
There is much contemplation of the notions of freedom in the modern world including the role of consumerism to eliminate dissent, and while the story does offer insightful rumination on a variety of philosophical topics, they all feel like McGuffins amidst an action packed blockbuster that despite time-travelling and leaping from rooftops and towers doesn’t seem to go anywhere at all.
I imagine this was an attempt to set up a new franchise, and it may well work in China, but don’t expect a sequel anytime soon…
When I interviewed the two leads and the director a few weeks ago on a tour of Australia, they gave lengthy answers to the question of what the film was about. Marion Cotillard seemed very uncomfortable as I expect she was facing many interviews querying the logic of the film.
Aside from a jumbled story, there seemed to be a lot of smoke covering blurry CGI which makes for an overall unpleasant experience.
Sadly it seemed a waste of all the talent on offer in front of and behind the camera.
Perhaps The Independent put it best when they said in their review – ‘This movie is akin to watching someone else watch someone else play a bad video game’