The video game to film adaptation has always been a tricky one. In the history of motion pictures not one has managed to get things right – save Street Fighter: The Movie with Jean Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue, but that's more of a guilty pleasure. Assassin's Creed is one which had everything going for it; a gifted director, a talented actor and solid source material, and a property that has managed to sell over 100 million copies since the first title hit back in 2007.
All of these ingredients are nothing without a solid script, and indeed some fresh ideas to warrant a film conversion, but thankfully Justin Kurzel's movie, from a screenplay by Michael Leslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, all of whom have good pedigrees, provide a rather entertaining platform for a potential new franchise to jump off of. No, really.
The story revolves around the character of Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), a convicted murderer who is saved from a death sentence by a mysterious company, Abstergo Industries, who give him a second chance. Using genetic memories contained within his DNA, Lynch is able to live the life of distant relative Aguilar de Nertha (also played by Fassbender), a mysterious member of a secret society in 15th century Spain. Led by Marion Cotillard‘s Sofia and the rather shadowy Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), Lynch learns new physical skills and hidden knowledge of a life long forgotten, that may be needed to topple the controlling Templar organisation in the present day by adjusting events in the past.
I enjoyed Assassin's Creed from the get-go, and I'm not a huge lover of the source material as such. Kurzel and his team root this motion picture in reality, shying away from using too much CGI in favour of the use of full-scale sets and real locations, as well as high-octane action set pieces and exceptional, well choreographed stunt-work. Adam Arkapow, the talented director of photography who has worked with both Kurzel and Fassbender in the past, creates an exceptional pallet of colour for the look of the film, especially for the scenes set in the 15th century – a section where the film is at its absolute best. Combine that with the thrilling roof-top chases, exceptional parkour skills so reminiscent of the original games, the film is relentless in its execution and absorbs the viewer throughout. With Lynch essentially playing a surrogate in the present day through the very clever 'Animus', it's almost that he's playing the game himself, a clever plot device that never feels contrived.
Fassbender is on form as both Lynch and Aguilar, and there's even a solid, though brief turn by Brendan Gleeson and another from an excellent Charlotte Rampling as Ellen Kaye, one of the highest ranking members of the Templar society.
While not perfect – the plot feels stretched over a generous 115 minutes, and the extreme violence toned down to bag the 12A rating in the UK – the film does have potential legs and nicely sets up the opportunity for future efforts, which, to be honest would be totally welcomed. There are tons of gentle nods to the game throughout, of course, but Assassin’s Creed is ultimately a decent, believable action movie that really can be enjoyed by all. It seems the curse has, at last, been broken.
A thumping, exciting, well constructed and totally engaging adaption that will be lapped up by fans of the games for sure, and hopefully embraced by a new breed too. A great start to 2017.