Assassin’s Creed (2016)


The two halves of the film don’t really fit together: contemporary evil corporation manipulating duped experimental subjects, and Renaissance intrigue, murder, and mayhem. Welded together with the crude device of a conspiracy plot more at home in a Dan Brown novel than in a sane mind: The Catholic Church seeks to enslave mankind with evil intent. Presumably giving all the Anglo Protestants in the USA justification to arm themselves to the teeth, form militias, and destroy civilisation to save it from destruction by the Catholics. A fine piece of contemporary American logic.

Worse, from my perspective: there is a substantial portion of dialogue in Spanish, forcing me to turn to sub-titles, which I have always thought of as destroyers of a film. Both for distracting from the visuals, and for usually being the work of illiterate gremlins guessing at original meaning rather than translating it.

But there is one feature here that tickled me a little. In the otherwise formulaic dialogue, there is an assassin’s mantra, part of which says: ‘Where other men blindly follow the truth, remember, nothing is true. Where other men are limited by morality or law, remember, everything is permitted.’

Suddenly the film is actually a rejection of religious doctrine altogether and channels an unseen Jean Paul Sartre with an existentialist justification for assassins’ work.

The Apple of Eden – a steampunk gizmo – apparently holds the key to freedom of will, and therefore also its elimination. The bad guys want to create a population of ovine subjects happy to comply with the commands of the evil elite, which nevertheless cloaks itself in the dubious legitimacy of holy orders.

This conspiracy seems to have been lifted directly from one of the masturbation fantasies shared by Mike Pence, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell.

And there we have it: what could be more appealing than a secret guild of highly skilled killers hunting down Christo-fascist megalomaniacs giving each other reach-arounds?

I confess to never having played the Assassin’s Creed game, from which all this nonsense is derived; I suspect it is pretty well restricted in imagination and intent to vicarious murder and mayhem.

And yet if the underlying message is about usurping religionism, and defending freedom of conscience and thought against the control of it by tyrants, who am I to argue how it is wrapped? I’ll support any route to make these ideas accessible and acceptable to at least two generations of idiot children unable to distill such messages for themselves through more intellectual routes.

Director Kurzel and actor Fassbender’s previous collaboration, Macbeth (2015), may have flopped at the box office, but is definitely the finer piece.

Assassin’s Creed (2016). 20th Century Fox/Regency Enterprises/Ubisoft Entertainment/New Regency Pictures/Ubisoft Motion Pictures/DMC Film/The Kennedy/Marshall Company, colour, 115 minutes.

Directed by Justin Kurzel. Produced by Jean-Julien Baronnet, Gérard Guillemot, Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Michael Fassbender, Conor McCaughan, Arnon Milchan. Written by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage, based on the Ubistoft game, Assassin’s Creed. Photography by Adam Arkapaw. Editing by Christopher Tellefsen. Music by Jed Kurzel.

With Michael Fassbender as Callum “Cal” Lynch and Aguilar de Nerha; Marion Cotillard as Dr Sofia Rikkin; Jeremy Irons as Alan Rikkin; Brendan Gleeson as Joseph Lynch; Charlotte Rampling as Ellen Kaye; Michael K. Williams as Moussa; Denis Ménochet as McGowen.

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