Sunday, December 25, 2016

Assassin's Creed

Year: 2016
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Ariane Labed, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams

Plot: Callum Lynch, a convict sentenced to death, is captured by a secret society for an experiment that involves jumping back in time into his ancestor's body in search of an ancient artifact that can cure mankind's appetite for violence.

Review: Video games are the hardest to adapt into film. It seems only Paul W.S. Anderson has been able to get it right, first with Mortal Kombat and then with Resident Evil, the latter's sixth and final film coming out next month. Assassin's Creed, much like Warcraft earlier this year, has a skilled director and a stellar cast, and they both aim high, but both stumble somewhat.

Callum Lynch, sentenced to death by lethal injection, wakes up in a mysterious facility alongside other inmates, and told that he is a descendant of an assassin during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. The facility is run by Sofia Rikkin and her father Alan; the former has a program that allows people to jump into the bodies of their ancestors and relive their experiences. Sofia wants Cal to jump into his ancestor Aguilar's body in 1492 and find out where he hid the Apple Of Eden, an artifact said to harbor the secret to eliminating violence in humans. And so Cal relives Aguilar's battles in 1492, where he and a group of assassins are at war with the Templar over the Apple. But, like most stories of its kind, there's a hidden agenda involved.

Director Justin Kurzel uses the same tactics he deployed in Macbeth, keeping the visuals dark and hazy, and half the time it proves to be a bit too much as it's hard to make out the actors' faces on screen. The fight sequences fare better though, and a dazzling rooftop chase sequence at the middle of the film looked pretty good. Kurzel also does a good job in setting up the plot; while the pace seems slow in the first third, it allows the film's backstory to be properly explored, but unfortunately one feels that a good chunk of the film was edited, particularly scenes involving the supporting characters at the facility. Basically put, in comparison Assassin's Creed succeeds in plot development but stumbles in visual execution, while Warcraft is the other way around.

Michael Fassbender plays the lead roles of Cal and Aguilar quite well, proving he can be an action hero with the right film. Marion Cotillard however is too subdued as Sofia, thus unable to display her true motivations towards the finale. Jeremy Irons is good as Alan Rikkin but isn't given enough time to shine. Brendan Gleeson only has a couple of scenes as Cal's father but makes them count.

As mentioned, the other supporting characters who are inmates at the facility should have been given more time on screen as their team up with Cal in the last third of the film feels rushed, leading to a non-climactic finish, and like Warcraft, an open-ended one (though I admit this finish beats the Warcraft one). 

Imdb states that the film ought to be 25 minutes longer. I wouldn't mind if it was another 15 minutes longer just for the film to be fleshed out better. At least the action sequences and the thumping soundtrack by Kurzel's younger brother Jed make Assassin's Creed a somewhat decent film, but that's about it. (6.5/10)

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