UK, 2016, 115 minutes, Colour.
Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Essie Davis.
Directed by Justin Kurtzel.
Assassins Creed is based on a computer game and is intended for the players, especially those who are fans of the game and assure us that the details of the games have been incorporated into the screenplay. But what about those of us who are not game players are not familiar with Assassins Creed? It means that this has to be something of a spectacle action show with plenty of special effects and computer graphics, especially for sequences which are set in Spain in the 15th century.
There is some information on screen as the film begins, a reminder of the role (not necessarily historical but in the mythologies of novels and the movies) of the Knights Templar, their position in the church, their influence on monarchies. There is also information about the lineage of secret Assassins. But, to the surprise of those who know a bit about the Bible and the Genesis stories, there is information about the Eden Apple, not only the cause of the fall of Adam and Eve but, somehow or other, the reality of human free will is contained in this Apple. Not a surprise that everybody is after it, wanting its power – and this continues into the 21st century.
And that is where the film opens in the 15th century, the Court of Ferdinand and Isabella, clashes between Muslims and Christians, the role of the Prince of Granada, and a tradition of secret and well-trained assassins. During the film there are several flashbacks to action in Spain, protection of the Prince, challenges from royalty, the flashy action of the assassins, arrests, almost-executions, escapes… And even Christopher Columbus.
There is a sudden leap to 1986, a little boy in Mexico riding his bike, trying some dangerous feats, arriving home to find his mother dying, and his father dressed as an assassin with a knife, the authorities coming to get him and his advising his son to flee. In this way we are introduced to the character of the young Callum Lynch.
And then we are in the 21st century, 30 years later, with Callum actually about to be executed by lethal injection for murdering a pimp, so we are told. However, he is extricated from the jaws of death and set up in the experimental rooms of a huge company, investigating technology, medication, the role of memories. The person in charge is Jeremy Irons (who, as one reviewer wisely put, is very Jeremy Irons-ish). On hand is his daughter, Sifue (Marion Cotillard) who has dedicated herself to science, working with memories.
So, this is where Callum Lynch, played very seriously by Michael Fassbender, begins to get used to his post-almost-execution life, meeting various other subjects of experiments, meeting the rejects who now have very little life of their own. He agrees to go into the experimental program, the Animus, a virtual reality experience, where he goes back into the past, identifying with his assassin ancestor and his exploits, reawaken his own assassin genes, and discovering the Apple, involved in its rescue.
The Templars of the 21st century, meeting at their Temple in London, are very happy to have the Apple, and Jeremy Irons about to make a speech, but… Callum Lynch raises the question with his daughter whether her father really wanted the Apple or he just wanted to get rid of the assassins. We realise he wasn’t 100% supported by the Templars in this quest for the Apple, especially when we meet the woman in charge played by a haughty Charlotte Rampling.
And so, that is Assassins Creed unless you are a game player – and unless they decide on Assassins Creed 2.
1. A film for enthusiasts of computer games? For the game of Assassins Creed? The impact for non—gamers?
2. Fans and the comments about the accuracy of the film in relationship to the game? Situations, characters, issues, moves?
3. For the wide audience, an action blockbuster? The range of action, the stunts, CGI, the atmosphere? The musical score?
4. The introductory information, the history of the Knights Templar and the Assassins? The mythology of the Eden Apple? Its powers, free will? Its existence, ownership, retrieval? This kind of mythology invented for computer games and films?
5. The introduction, 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella, the court, the history of the Templars, the history of the assassins? The continued flashbacks throughout the film?
6. Spain, the Catholic Church, clash with the Muslims? Royalty, Christopher Columbus? The Prince of Granada, the mission for the Apple, the assassins? The chief assassin, his female companion? The bond, their attacks, riding, fighting, capture, almost execution? The escape? The range of flashbacks providing the history, and the action?
7. 1986, Cal, his mother dying, the role of his father, the authorities coming, his father urging him to escape? The young boy, the bike, his attempted feats, and the image of the bird?
8. 30 years on, Cal, to be executed, the murder of the pimp? In prison, taken to execution, his fears, the injection, the effect?
9. His being saved? His being taken to the industrial unit? Technology, techniques, virtual reality? Dealing with recovery of memories? The Animus, its use for the recovery of memories? Cal awake, his reaction to his surroundings, the revealing of his character, dealing with the other members, the 200 year old Arabic leader? The regime, the meals, seeing those who had failed the tests and their lack of life?
10. Sophie, her presence, dedication to science, her work, with Cal, the Animus, virtual reality, his experiences, reliving them, acting them out, but the flashbacks providing the history? His discovery, his identity, the Assassin, the mind of the assassin?
11. Sophie, her father, his control, his character and ambitions? The interactions of father and daughter? Cal and his success with retrieving the Apple?
12. Sophie, her hopes, ambitions, supervising the work, her relationship with Cal?
13. The manager, leading the Templars, his decisions, the woman president, her wanting results, her lack of confidence in the process?
14. Cal, the visit to his father in the institution, his father’s story, his mother as an assassin, his father warning him, his decision to be active, his achievement, the Apple?
15. The Temple of the Templars in London, the ceremony, everybody arriving, hooded, the security, the rituals? The speech, Sophie and her contribution, her father going before the assembly?
16. Sophie and Cal, Cal and his decision, slitting her father’s throat?
17. The reactions, Sophie bewildered at what she had done, Cal and his role as an assassin, the havoc for the Templars?
18. The final scene on the rooftop, the assassins keeping vigil?