Assassin’s Creed: A technically sound, yet underwhelming video game adaptation

A familiar flaw plagues Assassin’s Creed, one that has previously infected many, many Hollywood films based on video games, from the likes of Mortal Kombat to Max Payne to Hitman. The films simply exist as unplayable games on screen—you simply watch two hours of cut scenes of an action video game narrative that seems inspired from a bad Dan Brown novel.

Assassin’s Creed
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard
Storyline: A criminal learns that he is a descendant of a secret society

The film also begins better than it ends, and that ends up leaving you with a sour after-taste that tempts you to look upon the entire film in disfavour. Assassin’s Creed is about a convicted criminal, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender, who looks convinced he’s in a great film), who is used by a company called Abstergo Industries to relive events of his ancestor’s life through a breakthrough device created by scientist Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard). The idea is to get Callum to identify the whereabouts of a sought-after object called the Apple of Eden. As the film shifts back and forth between the present day and the time of the Spanish Inquisition, Callum realises his ancestors were all part of brotherhood called the Assassins which has tried to keep the Apple of Eden away from the reach of the Templars. See what I meant about the Dan Brown inspiration? However, take nothing away from the gorgeously shot fight sequences set in the 1400s. I also enjoyed the minor forays into the psyche of Callum as he slowly imbibes his ancestor’s identity, and with it, his combat skills.

However, director Justin Kurzel doesn’t linger too long on Callum’s potential descent into insanity, his impending loss of identity. In fact, the film is conspicuous by the absence of any emotional beats. I can’t remember one conversation worth remembering in the entire film. Bereft of any interesting side-angles that act as a breather, the film is dreadfully one-note. It feels just as a series of excellently choreographed and shot fight sequences amid some mundane stretches with some conspiracy mumbo-jumbo. The fight sequences, of which there are quite a few, are also bolstered by the moody music of Jed Kurzel, who imbues period combat scenes with a buzzing atmospheric sound that is at once intense and held back. If the film feels more important than it is, it is also on account of the performances of actors of the calibre of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.

At a whopping 140 minutes, the film’s well longer than its uninventive story warrants. I doubt you’d miss much if you sliced up an hour off the film with one of those cool hidden blades that Callum wields in the film. The Dan Brown inspirations persist till the end, when the name of Christopher Columbus gets dropped, but it doesn’t matter. It also doesn’t help that the final stretch doesn’t end the film on a high. There’s hardly anything in Assassin’s Creed worthy of reflection, unless you ponder over the irony of watching a film stressing upon the importance of free will, just after you’ve been made to stand up, thanks to a newly passed legislation.

This review was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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