January 5, 2017 by bck1402
Bear with me here.
Years ago, in some quiet moment, I contemplated the relations between soul, memory and dreams. Part of it was for my stories but it was also partly the concept of old souls, past lives, karma, and reincarnation. Why sometimes we have dreams that felt familiar despite never having experienced certain events or emotions before, and how memory might play into that. So, this is all personal anecdotal musings.
I came to the conclusion that souls, like energy, simply move around from one body to the next, and memory was associated with those souls. In a way, each life contributed to the fullness of the soul, to experience every aspect, if possible that life itself has to offer. The trick was accessing the memories of those previous incarnations. In that, I figured it had to be what I called ‘triggers’ be that physical, emotional or even chemical. I never figured genetics into it because genetic memory was more towards physical instinct; a conditioned behaviour. Soul memory needed an impetus to spark a recall, often some outside trigger.
So what’s this got to do with Assassin’s Creed?
A portion of the plot involves a kind of time-travel where convicted and executed murderer, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), gets to experience the life of his genetic ancestor, the assassin Aguilar (also Fassbender), during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. They do this by hooking Cal into a machine called an Animus, and then ‘synching’ his brainwaves to the genetic memory of his ancestor, allowing Cal to experience those memories, or rather, specific memories that would lead to the location of the film’s MacGuffin, the Apple of Eden (spoiler, it’s not really an apple). Every trip through the Animus unlocks the genetic memory within Cal, giving him skills and abilities that were supposedly inherent within him. Not to mention Cal being haunted by the ghost of Aguilar from time to time.
Cal, of course, is mostly in the dark for most of the time, being fed (as are we) only what we need to know either by Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) or her father (Jeremy Irons). Then again, there isn’t much of a plot there aside from simply enjoying the action packed romps that mostly take place in the past.
Director Justin Kurzel infuses the adventure with a slightly unique visual language, allowing the fog of war to embellish atmosphere. Stunts are mostly practical, including a very impressive high-dive leap of faith, although the free-running across rooftops and some clothes-lines may beggar belief, occasionally mucking up the fight-space via some frantic editing. Either that or the bad guys chasing our assassins really have reinforcements everywhere no matter where you turn or run to. Still, much of the fight choreography is impressive.
Much of the high-powered cast, including Charlotte Rampling and Brendan Gleeson, give the movie an air of serious importance, but ultimately, it’s very much a romp. The modern-day sequences are sterile and claustrophobic for the most part, but the set-pieces set in the past are vibrant, energetic and mostly enjoyable, mostly thanks to Fassbender and his action co-star Ariane Labed.
In all, there is much to like and the impressive production, adherence to proper stunt-work and real locations make up some for the slightly lacking plot and fairly low-key ending. It’s suffers very much from the origin-movie problem of building the world, selling the concept, and setting up what might come next. For some, getting past the idea of how the Animus works might be problematic, but take the movie for what it is, as it is, and you might just have an enjoyable time.
Directed by Justin Kurzel
Stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Ariane Label, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Menochet with Charlotte Rampling and Brendan Gleeson
Rating ***1/2 /5