Assassin’s Creed

Posted: January 20, 2017 in Film reviews

Directed by Justin Kurzel. Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons.


“And then baby bear asked ‘who’s been sleeping in my bed'”

During the Spanish Inquisition, a man named Nerha is accepted into the Assassins, a secret society charged with protecting something named the Apple of Eden, an artefact that is supposed to provide the genetic “antidote” to human free will. The apple is sought by the Templars, a rival group who want to eliminate strife by eliminating free will.

In 1986 a young Callum Lynch arrives home to discover his mother has been killed by his father, who it turns out is an assassin. As Templar forces arrive his father tells Callum to run.

Thirty years later the adult Callum (Fassbender) is on death row. He’s strapped down and receives a lethal injection…and then wakes up in a secret facility in Madrid where he meets Dr Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard). She introduces Callum to a complex device known as the Animus. Callum is the last ancestor of Nerha, and the Animus uses the genetic link between the two men to allow Callum to inhabit Nerha’s body. Sophie, and her father Alan (Irons), hope that Callum will lead them to the Apple. Nerha was the last man in history known to have possessed the Apple, and the Rikkins (being Templars) are eager to get hold of it.

As Callum experiences the past, and learns about his heritage as the descendant of an Assassin, will he chose to help Sophia and her father, or will he choose a different path?


“It was like a computer game” is a complaint often levelled at CGI heavy films, and whilst there is some truth in some CG looking like it came out of a game, on the whole it’s an unfair insult. It implies computer games are dumb, and many of them are not. What they are is a very different form of media than film, much as a book is. In a computer game the idea is that you are the hero, you decide what happens. This is part of the reason that computer games translate poorly to the medium of film, because you’re not playing the game anymore, you’re effectively watching someone else play the game.

Assassin’s Creed is worse than most. Here you’re not watching someone play the game, you’re watching Michael Fassbender as he watches someone play the game!


Cotillard watches Fassbender watching someone else playing Assassin’s Creed

I’ve never played the game, but clearly it is very popular and people are drawn to both its parkour style acrobatics, and also its sense of history. On the surface you would imagine this would make for an engaging film, especially when you throw talented actors like Fassbender, Cotillard and Irons into the mix. If you imagined this you would be wrong.

Assassin’s Creed is poor, and worst of all it’s boring. It’s directed with a po-faced earnestness that does it no favours, it features hackneyed dialogue that even good actors (and beyond the lead three this film features the likes of Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling) can’t make work, and the plot is confused. Is modern day Callum being possessed by his ancestor, is he learning from his ancestor? Who knows! The notion of the Apple of Eden is preposterous, and the idea of removing free will just reminded me too much of the old Man from UNCLE film ‘How to Steal the World’ but whilst that had a sense of fun, and a clear notion of how ridiculous it was, Assassin’s Creed plays it utterly straight and therefore becomes wince inducingly bad.

Fassbender tries to imbue Callum with a personality, and at times you can almost see a glint of “what the hell have I got myself into?” in his eyes, but he isn’t aided by a script that gives Callum limited personality. He isn’t even allowed to be a truly bad man, when it’s mentioned he’s killed someone he answers simply “He was a pimp” well that’s all right then. Cotillard looks empathetic and conflicted but really seems to be phoning it in, but then again she isn’t given much to work with. Irons tries, and occasionally succeeds, in chewing the scenery and he gets pretty much the only laugh in a film almost entirely devoid of humour.

But surely the action sequences are worthwhile, you ask? Not so much. For starters too many of them are clearly CG, and even when they’re not it’s hard to make much out due to the frenetic camera work and the fact that much of the film seems very dark. At times it was hard to make much out, and we did wonder if we’d accidentally gone to see the 30% light loss 3D version!

I’ve heard several reviews that suggested the modern-day stuff was boring but at least the bits set in Andalucía in 1492 are exciting. I’d actually say the reverse. Both are dull but at least the characters in the present day have some personality. Nerha is a complete cipher and, for a man determined to safeguard free will, he ironically doesn’t seem to have much of his own!

There was potential for an Indiana Jones style action adventure film here, but instead all we get is a turgid mess that isn’t even interesting enough to be enjoyably terrible. Bland, boring and forgettable. Assassins’ Creed? Assassin’s Crud more like.


The Inquisition’s ultimate torture. Heretics were chained up and forced to watch Assassin’s Creed on a loop.


  1. The games are massively popular, but I haven’t been hearing much good about the films coming out of gameland either… There are some seriously good, cinematic games around nowadays; no need to make them into crap films!

    • starkers70 says:

      I think there is just a narrative difference in how a game proceeds to how a film does. Probably the same reason games made out of films tend to be crapper as well!

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