Film review - Assassin's Creed: An enjoyable b-movie that surfs swells of high-concept silliness
The voodoo pins were out for Michael Fassbender when it was announced the Oscar-nominated actor would both star in and co-produce a mega-budget adaptation of Assassin’s Creed, the cult video game about an angry chap in a hoodie who runs along medieval roofs for a living.
As per widespread predictions Assassin’s Creed is indeed spectacularly rickety – but not nearly as execrable as many would have you believe. At its best the film has the endearingly hokey qualities of a late Eighties straight-to-video romp. This is presumably not what Fassbender and his artsy director Justin Kurzel had in mind signing up to the $125 million project. They should nonetheless be credited for cobbling together – even if accidentally – an enjoyable b-movie that surfs swells of high-concept silliness.
The plot veers from incomprehensible to merely ludicrous yet is at all times faithful to the baroque, bonkers sensibility of the Ubisoft video game. Fassbender plays Callum Lynch, a present day renegade of Irish extraction sentenced to death for sundry crimes (his dad, portrayed across the timelines by the father and son duo of Brian and Brendan Gleeson, has a Dublin accent and Fassbender occasionally ventures a murmur in his native Kerry tones).
He is whisked away from the execution chair by Marion Cotillard’s Sophia Rikkin, representative of the ancient order of the Knights Templar. In pursuit of a mysterious artefact with the potential to end human conflict – awkwardly this will also involve depriving mankind of free agency – the Templars have cobbled together a time travel device in the basement of their dashingly minimalist HQ. You can who guess has been chosen as guinea pig.
Cal will zip back to 15th century Spain and there slip into the sandals of knife-wielding, guy-liner sporting ancestor Aguilar de Nerha (the contraption, so far as I could gather, works by tapping their shared genetic coding). By following Aguilar’s adventurers, the idea is that Cotillard and associates will be able to work out where he has hidden the Apple of Eden, the mystical McGuffin prophesied to give the Templars dominion over human will .
As marshalled by Kurzel – with whom Fassbender and Cotillard also worked on 2015’s gauzily glum Macbeth retelling – such convolutions are quickly set to one side in favour of swoopingly gorgeous set-pieces.An early sequence sees Cal / Aguilar leap between wagons in a thrilling chase; later he skips atop roof-tops in a breathtaking recreation of an iconic segment from the game.
Fassbender is clearly up for this, throwing himself into the action scenes and summoning an intense grumpiness for his interactions with Cotillard. Visibly less enamoured with the material are Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling as scheming Templar big-wigs. You can’t blame them for coming across bamboozled by the nonsense unfolding all around. Yet for anyone prepared to take the movie on its own tacky terms, Assassin's Creed is a high-soaring guilty pleasure.