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szdaily -> Movies
Assassin's Creed
    2017-February-24  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    A VIDEO game movie fully confident in its gonzo, pseudo-existential tone, “Assassin’s Creed” is an arresting cacophony which is never particularly good. Reuniting with the stars of his 2015 “Macbeth” adaptation, director Justin Kurzel has produced an action-thriller with real vision and scope — especially in comparison to the measly films usually based on popular games. But while it’s fun to see serious actors like Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard commit themselves to such ludicrous nonsense, “Assassin’s Creed” can’t escape the feeling that formidable talents are putting considerable effort into material that doesn’t deserve such care.

    Two-time Oscar-nominee Fassbender has plenty of name appeal thanks to the recent “X-Men” movies, and Oscar-winner Cotillard will be familiar to fans of “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” But although it boasts plenty of high-energy action, “Assassin’s Creed” may become a modest commercial performer.

    Fassbender plays Cal, a dangerous criminal about to be executed when he’s rescued by Sofia (Cotillard), who is part of a mysterious company known as Abstergo Industries. Sofia needs Cal because he’s a descendant of 15th-century Spanish warrior Aguilar de Nerha, a revered member of a secret society called the Assassins. Using some of Abstergo’s advanced technology, Cal will link up with Aguilar remotely through their shared DNA, essentially “controlling” him while seeking the legendary Apple of Eden, which holds the key to humanity’s free will.

    Based on the Ubisoft video game series, “Assassin’s Creed” is a very silly movie executed with utter seriousness. Much like Kurzel’s “Macbeth, “which was distinguished by its visceral, dreamlike battle scenes, “Assassin’s Creed” really shines when the director executes his muscular, feverish action sequences. Fassbender, who also plays Aguilar, has beefed up for the role, and he’s a chiselled, wholly convincing hero, delivering a flurry of punches and kicks to his foes when he’s not jumping from building to building or blasting arrows in all directions.

    Composer Jed Kurzel and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw — who both worked on “Macbeth” — give “Assassin’s Creed” a brooding grandeur, while production designer Andy Nicholson does a fabulous job emphasizing Abstergo’s high-tech chilliness. Even when the story becomes convoluted, which is often, the film’s striking look and feel almost convince you that there are real stakes at play in Cal’s mission.

    “Assassin’s Creed” tries to give Cal a tragic past — he saw his father kill his mother when he was a boy — and the screenplay hints that this mystical Apple of Eden could end humanity’s penchant for violence, although the script gets bogged down in unconvincing debates about our need to be ruled because we fear true freedom. All of this is laughable, but Fassbender (and, to a slightly lesser extent, Cotillard) bring such gravitas to their roles that they escape with their dignity intact.

    Anyone who has suffered through copious video game adaptations knows that these movies tend to default to a kind of adolescent, masculine aggressiveness, the filmmakers vainly hoping to replicate a game’s kinetic rush through nonstop propulsion and attitude. “Assassin’s Creed” is nearly wall-to-wall violence, but Kurzel reveals an eye for widescreen composition that, paired with Christopher Tellefsen’s efficient, hyperactive editing, gives the film the tenor of a sophisticated graphic novel. With disposable studio junk like this, the less the viewer thinks, the better, but at the very least Kurzel suggests he’d be able to helm a tired franchise in need of some spark.

    Among the supporting cast, Jeremy Irons drips oily menace as Sofia’s father who is also the head of this shadowy company. He’s perfectly adequate playing a type, and the same goes for Brendan Gleeson as Cal’s mournful father, who tells his son something surprising that, right on cue, will shift what we thought we knew about what has transpired. It’s a testament to Kurzel’s passionate investment in this dopey tale that he gets gritty performances from veteran actors who could have very easily phoned it in.

    The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen.

    (SD-Agencies)

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