If we spoke of a lone male, glassy eyed, incoherent, with twitchy hands sitting in a pool of his own urine then most would automatically think we were talking about the Editor after yet another night on the tiles (You’re fired – Ed) but no! we would be talking about the stereotypical image of the everyday gamer unable to make conversation as he’s transfixed by the latest game he’s playing on his wide screen UHD TV. The film industry has been quick to latch onto the market having made numerous attempts to make films of games and for every success like the Resident Evil franchise we also have the unmitigated disaster zone that was Super Mario Brothers. Many of the big release games are in seemingly forever constant development hell if the intended big screen version of HALO, Call of Duty and BioShock are anything to go by.
The latest gameto get the big screen treatment is ‘Assassins Creed’ and like many of the films this also has a convoluted back story this time set, not in space or another world, but many centuries ago where we are introduced to a sect of secret assassins but before we get further into their story we leap forward to almost the present day where Cal (Michael Fassbender) first seen as a young boy finds his mother dead by the hands of his father but once again we leap forward to today where Fassbender is now a grown man who appears to have led a life of such criminality that he’s about to be executed by lethal injection only to find himself waking up in some covert laboratory care of a mysterious company known as Abstergo with Marion Cotillard informing him that not only has he been reprieved from death row but that he’s also the descendant of a revered member of this assassins secret society. Bizarrely rather than thinking she might have mental health issues Cal goes along with it all and agrees to taking part in the company’s research which has him strapped up to an enormous mechanical arm which links up his own DNA with that of his assassin descendant and help find the long lost Apple of Eden which the company believe will end humanity’s predilection for violence. It’s spoiling nothing to say that this is not a true story yet it’s made with such sombre po-faced – ness that the film makers seem to believe their own story. It’s hardly surprising as this is directed by Justin Kurzel whose debut feature ‘The Snowtown Murders’ retold the brutal true life story about Australia’s only gang of serial killers as well as directing last year’s stunning interpretation of Macabeth. Neither of these films were laugh fests and those expecting a laugh a minute here will be sorely disappointed.
But Kurzel has been given his biggest budget to date and the money is on the screen with some stunning production design and he has shot very exiting sequences none more so than an incredibly thrilling parkour sequence as Fassbender and his fellow assassin’s are chased through a dusty 15th century city by Spanish guards. At times the ations scenes become a little confusing as they crosscut between the set pieces and Fassbender strapped into the giant hydraulic arm back in the lab and all backed by a pounding soundtrack that ups the ante. With so many of the game to film adaptations there’s the usual default to testosterone soaked aggressive machismo aiming to replicate the excitement of the game and this is no different as it rushes headlong through the set pieces but Kurzel is better than the material and lends it a certain grandeur as his camera swoops and soars through the cityscape and demonstrates an eye for the composition of a shot. If there’s any disappointment with the action scenes it’s the cop out that he awakens again back in the lab just as his alter ego high dives off a building presumably to a certain death.
This is the second film Fassbender has made with Kurzel after ‘Macbeth’ and he continues his earnest performance here which almost detracts from the sheer daftness of it all and he’s given able support on the solemnity front by veterans Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and most surprisingly of all, Charlotte Rampling, who was so fantastic in 2015’s ‘45 years’ it’s hard to believe that she is doing a videogame film but each of them give it their all when they could easily have just SKYPE’d their performance over.
Those not familiar with the game will wonder just what is going on with most of this and gamers, a notoriously difficult bunch to please will undoubtedly have their criticism’s which will mean nothing to anyone who doesn’t know the source material but if nothing else it does prove that Kurzel can lift this sort material above the run of the mill.
Here’s the trailer…….