Review: ASSASSIN'S CREED (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Review: ASSASSIN'S CREED (2016)

Review: ASSASSIN'S CREED (2016)

Following a death penalty by lethal injection, Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is unexpectedly given a second chance at life courtesy by the enigmatic biotechnology corporation known as Abstergo Industries. Apparently, Sofia (Marion Cotillard), the head scientist of the Animus Project at Abstergo Industries, wants to unlock Cal's genetic memories using a device called "The Animus". From there, Cal subsequently discovers he is actually the descendant of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, an Assassin during the Spanish Inquisition.

REVIEW: With more than 100 million copies sold worldwide, Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed video game series have enjoyed a varying degree of success since its debut in 2007. Given the enormous worldwide popularity, it comes to no surprise that the hit video game series is finally given a big screen treatment after all these years.

On paper, this big screen version of ASSASSIN'S CREED seems potential enough. It boasts a trio of an Oscar-calibre cast with the likes of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons. The movie also featured acclaimed Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel in the director's chair, whose two previous efforts including THE SNOWTOWN MURDERS (2011) and last year's MACBETH received plenty of accolades. However, for all the strong talents involved both on and off-camera, ASSASSIN'S CREED is a hit-and-miss effort that doesn't exactly reaches to its fullest potential.

But before I get to the "misses", here's what worked in this movie. As seen in MACBETH, Kurzel has proven to be an ace visual stylist. The past setting, which takes place during the Spanish Inquisition, is especially captivating in terms of its visual choice and camera works. Here, Kurzel and his regular cinematographer Adam Arkapaw favours a lot of moody lights and shadows reminiscent of Ridley Scott's signature visual palette. More than often, it feels like watching a movie directed by the legendary English director himself. Arkapaw's sweeping camera angles over the vast landscapes and historical buildings, shot on locations in Spain and Malta, are equally praiseworthy as well.

Review: ASSASSIN'S CREED (2016)

Then, there is the action scene... and thankfully, it doesn't disappoint! Kudos especially go to Kurzel's insistence of capturing the action and the stunts on camera as practical as possible. From the video game's signature parkour stunts to the visceral hand-to-hand combats, ASSASSIN'S CREED truly succeeds solely on its incredible action choreography alone. Jed Kurzel's score, in the meantime, is just as immersive that complements well with the dramatic action moments.

The rest of the technical credits, ranging from Andy Nicholson's elaborate production design to Sammy Sheldon Differ's meticulous costumes (particularly on the Assassins' trademark hooded wardrobes), are all beautifully realised on the big screen.

As for the cast, Michael Fassbender manages to pull off a convincing action-heavy performance as Cal Lynch/Aguilar de Nerha. He did a few of his own stunts in this movie and it truly shows how committed he is in terms of physical demand.

Review: ASSASSIN'S CREED (2016)

Unfortunately, the plot -- written by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage -- is sadly bloated and sometimes even slogged to a near standstill. Not to mention it tends to feel hasty with all the story's deep mythology between the past and present crammed all together in a haphazard manner. This is especially true if you are not familiar with the video game series. But since this is a movie version we are talking about, there's no excuse not to make the story accessible that can at least please both die-hard fans and casual moviegoers. Another glaring weakness here is almost every scene related to the present time feels too muted and emotionally detached. Finally, the third act is disappointingly anticlimactic the way Kurzel chooses to end his movie. For a video game movie that emphasised heavily on worldbuilding (yes, the makers are already planning a trilogy if the first one turns out well), ASSASSIN'S CREED could have used some better polishing in its overall execution.

With the notable exception of the aforementioned Michael Fassbender, the rest of the cast is surprisingly a letdown. It's kind of surprising to see talented actors like Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons are both undermined with their respective roles.

Although ASSASSIN'S CREED suffers from a few shortcomings, this big screen version remains a notch better than most failed video game movies out there.

ASSASSIN'S CREED is both technically impressive and visually captivating in terms of its action choreography, but the sloppy plot and weak supporting characters preventing this from achieving to a satisfying level of greatness.

* This review is written courtesy from 20th Century Fox Malaysia press screening *

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