Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams, Ariane Labed, Denis Ménochet
Run Time: 115 mins
‘Assassin’s Creed’ is a live-action adaptation of the hit video game of the same name and the latest bid to undo the past failures of video games not translating well into respectable films. Although this is the view shared by much of the film industry, I did quite like Duncan Jones’ 2015 adaptation of ‘Warcraft‘ and Mike Newell’s ‘Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time’ is a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. The film is directed by Justin Kurzel who I am a fan of who was behind 2015’s ‘Macbeth‘ and also directed ‘Snowtown’. Whilst I had my reservations on the screenplay for ‘Macbeth’, Kurzel has a flair for directing action so this should be right up his alley especially armed with a healthy $125 million budget. The film details the journey of Callum Lynch who is rescued from execution by a mysterious company called Abstergo who then learns he is a descendant of Aguilar during the Spanish Inquisition. Lynch must use the Animus, a program that allows him to relive Aguilar’s genetic memories in order to learn the location of the coveted Apple of Eden which Abstergo are desperate to source. Kurzel reunites with ‘Macbeth’ stars Michael Fassbender as Callum and Marion Cotillard and has also assembled an impressive cast comprising of Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling which fixes an issue that ‘Warcraft’ had in the sense that the cast it had were nothing particularly special. Kurzel also reunites with his brother, Jed Kurzel who composes the score and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. Unfortunately, the film has been plagued by terrible reviews with many citing it as a hollow exercise that muddles itself in its incoherent narrative which is a shame considering the talent.
Contrary to the overwhelmingly negative reviews, I found ‘Assassin’s Creed’ to be extremely entertaining with top-notch action sequences. It is a little silly in places, lacks some character development and muddles up its rather anti-climactic ending but there is a lot of promise here and Kurzel has made for a sterling choice in terms of directorial duties. The action sequences, particularly in the Spanish sequences are masterfully crafted and in conjunction with Adam Arkapaw’s stunning cinematography make for a spectacle to behold on-screen. The modern day action sequences are not as good but I don’t agree with all the negative reviews criticising them as they are fundamental to the narrative of the film. Other than the ending, the narrative was never incoherent and Kurzel manages to create suspense throughout this unravelling narrative.
The performances are fairly strong with Michael Fassbender being able to convincingly play both Callum and his descendant, Aguilar with flair. Marion Cotillard also fares well and Jeremy Irons is suitably hammy as the villain. Unfortunately Charlotte Rampling and Brendan Gleeson aren’t given much to do but when they are on-screen, they are able to capture the screen and the film also features some strong performances by Michael K. Williams and Ariane Labed. Character development does tend to take a backseat in this film which Duncan Jones attempted to inject with some success in ‘Warcraft’ but this film is more about the set pieces and the pulse-racing action brought to the screen.
Unlike a lot of viewers who have complained that the film’s narrative is incoherent, I didn’t find this to be the case. I was always aware of what was happening in the film and although I am not a player of the game that this film is an adaption of, I was never lost by it. As mentioned, the Spanish sequences really are a work of art and the action scenes are some of the most heart-racing I have seen in a while – they are simply jaw-dropping and extremely well orchestrated. Whilst I felt that Kurzel’s decision to keep the Shakespearean language in ‘Macbeth’ was a poor decision as it detracted from the filmic elements, Kurzel’s decision to keep the Spanish sequences in Spanish is a great decision and is really helps in the in-keeping of the raw, kinetic energy that these scenes provide. Unfortunately, Kurzel half-bakes the ending which falls a little flat and loses a lot of the exhiliration and thrill that were demonstrated in the earlier sequences of the film but there’s more than enough of a good film to compensate for this.
It wouldn’t be a Justin Kurzel film without a complimentary score by Jed Kurzel and cinematogaphy by Adam Arkapaw and once again, these two men are sheer geniuses. Jed Kurzel’s score is fantastic – it is crazy at times and really fits in well with the film and there are many memorable riffs that he manages to create. He is currently tapped to score the upcoming sequel, Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien: Covenant’ and I really do think he is a wonderful choice. He hasn’t disappointed yet at all and he manages to differentiate each and every score that he does and really has his own unique sound, something which a lot of composers lack in this day and age. Similarly, Adam Arkapaw also does not put a single foot wrong with this film – the action sequences are visceral in the way that they are shot and there are many sweeping point-of-view shots of the carnage and destruction that is inflicted in Inquisition-era Spain. He really does do a remarkable job.
‘Assassin’s Creed’ is a competently crafted film with some enthralling action sequences and is always entertaining for the most part until its ending which has a whole host of problems. It features some fine performances and creatively has a strong vision behind it. Justin Kurzel has clearly learned and developed himself as a director with this and it’s a real shame that this film has been largely rejected in the way that it has. I genuinely don’t understand all the hate this film has recieved and it’s a real shame to even see this consigned to ‘Worst of the Year’ lists. Compared to ‘Warcraft’, I did find this film to be a lot more entertaining and awe-inspiring but Jones’ film has a lot more character development to it but I overall would rather watch this. Ignore the reviews, go and see this and you will be enthralled at times. Take it for what it is.