Review: Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Justin Kurzel’s second team-up with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard proves to be much lighter fare than Macbeth (2015). Yet, despite the thinness of the script, Fassbender and Cotillard remain an electric duo amidst wonderful aesthetics and production design.

Sometimes, you just enjoy utterly mindless movies. By all accounts, Assassin’s Creed is not the peak of cinema, although it does have many things going for it. The biggest culprit happens to be the script. I’ve never played an AC game before, so I have no idea how complex or even thoughtful their plots tend to be. This film is anything but. You see the ending from a mile away, and it doesn’t even attempt to include twists or red herrings. It just takes everything at face value, almost as if it’s purposely being so simple.

In fact, the production team probably assumes the film’s audience before allowing it room to breathe in a theatre, creating a film around an incredibly basic plot in order to facilitate action sequences. Those are proficient here, especially through the lens of Kurzel’s cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. The choreography runs a tad longer than I usually like with fight scenes, but Arkapaw manages to shoot them in dynamic ways that utilise space and atmosphere very well.

Truly, Arkapaw and the Kurzels are probably the biggest stars throughout this entire project. Their collaborations have proven to produce intensely immersive worlds despite narrative insufficiency. Jed Kurzel’s score is fantastic, providing a sense of unsettling cohesion between the time jumps in the story; his music clearly unifies the film into a single fluid organism, stitching together scenes that really would not fit otherwise.

As aforementioned, Fassbender and Cotillard are very good. They work well together, although it is evident that the lack of scripting prowess negatively affected their range. But they make the most with what little they are given, and are still affable – two presences who feel far beyond second-rate cinema.

With as many talented people as there are working on this, it’s both surprising and utterly expected that Assassin’s Creed should fail. Video game adaptations have proven to be misses more than hits in my experience. Nevertheless, although this film has many faults, it’s not as bad as critics have been saying. It’s the kind of film you can switch off during, which says nothing about the quality as much as what it anticipates of itself. The film clearly set its boundaries as being an effects-driven action romp, and in that sense it certainly delivered.


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