Assassin's Creed 

 

Half

 

 

As a very, very resourceful scientist, Marion Cotillard taps into Michael Fassbender’s DNA to explore his past life as a Spanish assassin. Based on the video game.

 

   Assassin's Creed

In the old days: Michael Fassbender as Aguilar de Nerha

 

It helps if you believe in reincarnation. And in the Old Testament. In fact, Assassin’s Creed presupposes that its audience believes in a whole lot of stuff. Of course, it’s based on a video game, so we should make allowances. But still… even Dan Brown would have steered a wide berth of this material, which not only skips between Texas and Madrid and London but between the present (2016, that is) and fifteenth-century Spain.

 

The mandatory prologue introduces us to the eponymous hoodies, a sect of Spanish assassins who swear allegiance to the Prince of Granada, who’s been getting a lot of bother from the Templar Order. They also undertake to protect the sacred Apple of Eden, which contains the genetic code of free will and comprises the original seeds of the apple that Eve presented to Adam. As they chant, “our lives are nothing, the Apple is everything” we realise that this is heavy stuff.

 

We then cut forward to the present day, where one Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is to undergo lethal injection for the murder of a pimp who tried to mug him. Obviously, we are in Texas. But his execution is faked and Callum wakes up within the walls of the Abstergo Foundation, a high-tech facility in Madrid which is making huge leaps into the science of reincarnation. It transpires that Callum is the last link to the Spanish assassins, being a direct descendant of Aguilar de Nerha, a dab hand at parkour, martial arts and knifing people. The facility’s chief scientist, Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), believes that by tapping into Callum’s DNA she can locate the Apple of Eden and thus eradicate violence from the human race. In the words of her father, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), the solemn CEO of Abstergo, Sofia will go down in history alongside Ernest Rutherford and Crick and Watson, although he will get the credit (shades of the misogyny that blighted the recognition of Rosalind Franklin, but that’s another story).

 

All this would be terribly momentous if Assassin’s Creed weren’t so preposterous. But fans of the video game will be looking for action and this the film delivers in spades. Unfortunately, the fight scenes are edited so ferociously that any semblance of genuine combat is lost in the flurry, while the more recognisable aspects of the laws of physics are abandoned. When assassins jump through windows of plate glass in a high-security prison, one can but gasp at such old-fashioned conventions.

 

However, the film is not without a degree of class. It is a visual marvel and the acting talent is not to be scoffed at. Even so, it’s hard to stomach a line like, “a man grows with the greatness of his task,” even if it does come out of the mouth of Brendan Gleeson. One can’t but wonder what drew such a top-drawer cast to this material, other than the fact that Justin Kurzel previously directed Macbeth, also with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. But, forsooth, this really isn’t Shakespeare.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams, Denis Ménochet, Ariane Labed, Khalid Abdalla, Essie Davis, Callum Turner, Brian Gleeson.

 

Dir Justin Kurzel, Pro Jean-Julien Baronnet, Gérard Guillemot, Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Michael Fassbender, Conor McCaughan and Arnon Milchan, Screenplay Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, Ph Adam Arkapaw, Pro Des Andy Nicholson, Ed Christopher Tellefsen, Music Jed Kurzel, Costumes Sammy Sheldon Differ.

 

Regency Enterprises/Ubisoft Entertainment/New Regency Pictures/Ubisoft Motion Pictures/DMC Film/The Kennedy/Marshall Company-20th Century Fox.

115 mins. UK/USA/Hong Kong/France. 2016. Rel: 1 January 2017. Cert. 12A.