This article contains some mild Assassin's Creed movie spoilers.
At first glance, the corridor would appear to be brightly lit. After all, there is a soft fluorescence pooling down along the concrete floor from lights on high, as well as footlights below that trace every step. But this labyrinthine hallway belongs to Abstergo, the malevolent conglomerate run by a secret society in Assassin's Creed. So no matter the light source, the effect in this large but controlled space is sterile, bleak, and quietly authoritarian.
Thus it's no wonder that Michael Fassbender's character Callum Lynch chooses this exact moment to attempt his escape—or at least pose a demonstration of very un-civil disobedience. Surrounded by guards armed with only nightsticks and (presumably) a taser or two, Fassbender's protagonist moves not like a troubled prisoner circa 2016, but like a man possessed from another time. He moves like an Assassin.
In actuality, Fassbender is possessed simply by the desire to correctly execute the elaborate fight choreography on display. And we're not in the belly of a stainless steel beast. Rather, it's a rainy Wednesday in London, and I and a group of other journalists are huddled around a playback monitor at Pinewood Studios to watch Fassbender whip out those ass-kicking moves. He does that more, one take at a time, as Callum Lynch lays out a half-dozen Abstergo guards in their fit black suits with a near-lethal precision that does not match Cal's biography of an American drifter who's been running his whole life. In this moment, the man at the center of the Assassin's Creed movie is making a stand so firm that the camera is forced to whirl around the performer, as if trying to avoid a stray punch.
The secret for this complicated sequence, besides the meticulous choreography, is that the gliding camera is overseen by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, who lens junkies know best as the DP on the first season of True Detective. And like that show's glory days, Arkapaw's penchant for uninterrupted shots is adding an immediate tactile quality to the current beatdown.
"We're trying not to cut a lot," director Justin Kurzel said earlier that day about this more grounded approach to the violence. “I think we're just trying not to cheat as much. I think in some of these films, you can get away with creating an action sequence with continuous cuts. I think we're trying to, in an old school way, allow action to play out and for you to be engaged with the action front of you... before we're kind of cutting into them."
A video game adaptation that tries to do as much in the camera as possible? That of course sounds unusual, but so would much else around the Assassin's Creed set for fans of the Ubisoft games—as well as perhaps those who are not used to such craftsmanship going into a "video game movie."