Film: Assassin’s Creed
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Essie Davis, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Javier Guiterrez
Director: Justin Kurzel
Set in the 15th century, this sci-fi action adventure reboot of a popular video game reunites the Shakespearean “Macbeth” team comprising Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, director Justin Kurzel and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw. In real life, the Assassins (derived from the Arabic Hashashin, meaning “those faithful to the foundation”) were Nizari Ismailis, an Islamic sect formed in 1080 within a branch of Shia Islam.
In the film under review (and the eponymous video game) the Assassins are nihilistic hitmen in competition with the Catholic Church and the Knights Templar, to possess the apple from the Garden of Eden. Rational minded believers see the Biblical narrative in the Book of Genesis as a symbolic account of disobedience and Original Sin committed by our First Parents, Adam and Eve. Fundamentalists, as you know gentle reader, take Scriptural texts, literally.
The real Knights Templar were soldiers, many mercenary, who fought to liberate the Holy Land from the Moslems. In real life, the Inquisition was set up to weed out heretics undermining the Catholic faith. It was never, as has been misrepresented in numerous writings, applied to non-Catholics. The chief Inquisitor, Torquemada makes a brief appearance in this film, as does Christopher Columbus to whom the mythical apple is finally entrusted by the protagonist Aguilar (Fassbender, fabulous). Just imagine if that apple had landed on the shores of India, the primary object of Columbus’ seafaring.
Significantly, the film’s alternative history swathe starts in 1492, the year that Columbus landed in the Bahamas whose populace, he promptly named Indians, in the belief he had reached India. As the film plots it, it is also the time that the apple is in the possession of the Moslem Sultan, so Torquemada, (Javier Guiterrez) the leader of the Spanish Inquisition, retains the Knight Templars to retrieve the apple. Let’s now go back to Callum’s childhood.
Watching a much-loved parent die horribly is a trauma no child should be afflicted with. But this is the experience of Aguilar’s descendant Callum in his home on the outskirts of Baja, California. The perpetrator seems to be father who who tells his son, “Your blood is not your own. Run!” Even as he speaks, a battalion of armed men descend on the simple dwelling. And, of course, Cal obeys his dad, minus the bike which he used to attempt death-defying stunts from the roof of his home, like the heroine of Rogue One- a Star Wars Story, young Cal’s life too takes a rough turn and in adulthood, he is condemned death by lethal injection for murder. Then, he awakes in a strange room with a dark-haired woman in white. Is he in Paradise? Is she an angel? Nah.
She is Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard, strong) a scientist with the Abstergo Foundation and daughter of a kingpin (Jeremy Irons) of a secret society which also seeks the ancient occult device. Dr Rikkin believes she can use Cal’s DNA through a time travel contraption known as the Animus, which allows Cal to live through his ancestor Aguilar’s memories, to find the Apple and a cure for the violence that poisons the hearts of men.
I am not familiar with the video game – the only one I ever played a wee bit was SuperMario – but I am aware most video games today are saturated with violence. This film is no exception though most of the fighting is confined to the adult Cal’s ancestral memories of the bloody feud between the Assassins and the Church henchmen, the Knight Templars (historically incorrect, because the Templars were suppressed in the 13th century).
By contrast the film’s modern Templars led by a woman (Charlotte Rampling) are anti-Catholic, anti-religion megalomaniacs whose agenda to manipulate the genetic code and rule the world under one order after eradicating freewill, is no better than the Assassin’s creed of lawlessness, amorality and anarchy.