You Can Find a Creed Better Than That of These Assassins
- Shawn McEvoy Managing Editor, Crosswalk.com
- 2016 20 Dec
What is the Creed of the Assassins? I won't spoil it all for you here, but it involves affirming that "there is no truth" and "everything is permissible." If that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about this movie, then let me add there's a lot of confusion and violence, very little character development and the source material can be found in your PlayStation. Are you game? 2 out of 5.
Just last year, Justin Kurzel directed Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a little-seen adaptation of Macbeth. That trio returns 12 months later with a widely anticipated adaptation of the video game Assassin's Creed. Fassbender has a dual role as both death row inmate Cal Lynch, and Cal's ancestor from over 500 years ago, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a band of Assassins and the last known witness to the whereabouts of The Apple of Eden (more on that little MacGuffin later). Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) is a scientist who has developed a machine called The Animus in which Cal and others can experience 'ancestral memory' of events. Sofia believes if Cal can access Aguilar's memories of The Apple's hiding place (hint: it went missing from Spain in 1492, if that means anything to you), then she can possibly use the relic to create a world without violence. But everyone will have to get past the watchful eye of the cunning and oppressive Knights Templar first...
The look and feel. I've not played Assassin's Creed, but I've seen it, and Kurzel - at least to my untrained eye - seems to have nailed the dusty hues, specialized weapons, Spanish rooftops and sepia tones. He also gets a little artistic at times; I felt once or twice like I was hearing echoes of Stanley Kubrick's brand of sci-fi in an empty corridor or a slower-paced scene or a moment where nobody on screen or in the audience quite knows what's going on. The best parts of the movie are the switchbacks between the 1492 storyline and what Cal simultaneously experiences back in 2016 while plugged into The Animus - fascinating and well conceived. Not all films based on video games offer a chance to discuss philosophy, but this one does, for better or worse. Performances? Nobody is more or less than adequate.
Assassin's Creed is one of those movies where if you took away the chases, battles and fights, it'd be half as long. So, if you're interested more in just trying to puzzle out the plot or how Free Will factors into the story, you'll have time to do those things as the savage action rages on. There's no single thing at which Assassin's Creed just fails. More than anything, it's a film which knows its audience. It doesn't try to exclude the rest of us (indeed, I jumped in just fine and could have believed it was an original work), but it certainly plays to those already invested.
Christian Worldview Elements / Spiritual Themes
It's like this: that fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil talked about in Genesis? That "Apple of Eden" was a literal, round object which contains some sort of genetic reason for mankind's rebellion and free will. The Templars want to possess it in order to usher in a sort of one-world belief system, because up to now, "religion, politics and consumerism" have not succeeded in quashing dissent. And while a world in which we can all agree sounds pretty okay in this day and age, we must have Free Will, and the Assassins stand as the defenders of that. And yet... that makes the heroes of this story those who will always naturally be violent and who believe that Truth, Law and Morality are just oppressive vapors. You see the philosophical conflict for the Chrsitian viewer. Yes, we know the Inquisition was awful. No, we don't accept that Christianity is because it happened.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers)
- MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic elements and brief strong language
- Language/Profanity: One instance of "what the f--- is going on?" that plays to the oddity of the moment.
- Sexuality/Nudity: Well, another part of the Creed is that love and the body don't matter - only the mission. But it's clear Aguilar and a female compatriot share feelings for each other; they have a brief kiss.
- Violence/Frightening/Intense: Extremely violent (ironic, for a film in which a major character hopes to create a world without violence, but then, isn't that always the point, winning peace via the sword and all that); the upside is that there is zero gun violence (also odd during a scene where inmates take over the asylum, the guards don't use lethal force) and not so much gore. But many people die, others are maimed, and we get close-ups of several creative and hidden weapons the Assassins use. The battles, chases and fights do grow wearying at times as the score pounds over the top of them.
Drugs/Alcohol: An execution by lethal injection which turns out to be a ruse.
The Bottom Line
RECOMMENDED FOR: I have almost no concept of whether fans of the video game (or video game adaptations) will find Assassin's Creed satisfying, but they are certainly the target audience. If you're steadfastly in the mood for something all at once Dan Brown-Kubrick-Xbox, then maybe give it a look when it comes out on DVD? If you opt to send your teens, I'd be less concerned about our Cautions list and more prepared to discuss the worldview presented.
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR: If you're above a certain age, don't care for an extraordinary amount of violence or another 'religion is the bad guy' story, Assassin's Creed is definitely not the film for you.
Assassin's Creed, directed by Justin Kurzel, opened in theaters December 21, 2016; available for home viewing March 21, 2017. It runs 116 minutes and stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams and Ariane Labed. Watch the trailer for Assassin's Creed here.
Shawn McEvoy is the Managing Editor for Crosswalk.com and the co-host of CrosswalkMovies.com's Video Movie Reviews.
Publication date: December 21, 2016