Justin Kurzel’s ASSASSIN’S CREED is a frustrating film. The adaptation of the video game franchise of the same name boasts an awe-inspiring cast and some intriguing visual concepts, plus it brushes past some interesting philosophical and political ideas along the way. But the action is buried in clouds of dust and smoke and the flip-flopping scheme is somehow both too profuse and too scant. The by-committee screenplay is of too many minds and everything suffers as a result.
Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, a man sentenced to death. He is presumably executed, but the Abstergo Foundation has taken him into their care on account of a connection he bears with a Spanish Inquisition-era killer named Aguilar. Abstergo hooks Callum up to a machine so he can relive Aguilar’s memories and hopefully find the Apple, an object the group believes contains the secrets of free will. Callum-as-Aguilar fights through bad guys in Andalusia while Abstergo’s CEO (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter (Marion Cotillard) look on.
ASSASSIN’S CREED boasts a villain in Irons’ character that has compelling motivations for possessing the Apple, but these issues are only slightly explored. Irons’ delivery is oily and provocative, though, and that helps his lines about squashing dissent via religion, politics and consumerism hold more weight. His Abstergo has the function of modern day Templars and control by abolition of violence is his game. This provides him with a theoretical moral base, the movie’s most interesting philosophical concept.
Alas, ASSASSIN’S CREED is awash in murk. Fassbender attempts to draw some depth out of his character and his efforts deserve mild applause. But Cotillard is lost in the dust, which is disappointing given her capacity to provide a counterpoint to Irons’ character. The action is parkour-oriented garbage in Torquemada dress, but fans of the video game series will recognize the details. Those seeking coherence or fun should look elsewhere. Even the freefall is lost in the mix, which is an astonishing disappointment. And for all its tried depth, ASSASSIN’S CREED’s more egregious sins leave redemption well out of reach.