Assassin’s Creed – Review

With the official release of Assassin’s Creed on New Year’s Day, the latest tranche of video games adapted into films has come to an end, and with it we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we won’t have to see another attempt at combining the two mediums, for a little while at least.

Assassin’s Creed is certainly one of the better adaptations, but when you compare it to some of the other offerings out there, that’s not saying much, especially when the overall plot of the film is so lifeless. Michael Fassbender plays death row inmate Cal Lynch, a descendant of an assassin who lived in Andalusia of 1492 and is dragged into a centuries old war between the Assassins and the Templars, who wish to free and control the world’s population respectively. After discovering he is in a brand new prison, he is subjected to reliving his ancestor’s memories through the Animus, a machine which allows users to relive the lives of their ancestors, in order to discover the Apple of Eden, an ancient artefact which supposedly contains the DNA of Free Will.

assassins-creed-gallery-03-gallery-imageThe plot is very “bare bones”, with all the exposition being delivered in between the action sequences in fairly substantial info-dumps. Interestingly, the film manages to explain everything and nothing at the same time, once the hunt for the Apple is established, it gets retold by various characters, almost in fear that the audience will have forgotten what’s going on. The story itself is also clearly demarcated between the story and action sequences, a handy hint for those of you going to see the film; present day = plot, ancestry = ass-kicking. This is the content of the film in its entirety.

There is very little characterisation for anyone outside of the three lead roles, resulting in a lot of random actors waltzing into a shot, delivering a few lines, then disappearing into the background again until they are needed to say something quasi-philosophical  or help explain some random bit of story. It’s a real shame, as the lack of focus on these characters leaves some great actors such as Brendan Gleeson (who has a screen time of approximately two minutes,) and Michael K. Williams lingering in the background of shots with nothing much to do.

3063243-acmovie1That being said, Fassbender, Cotillard and Irons are all able to pull off some wonderful acting and action sequences when they are called upon to do so, though Fassbender trails behind the other two when they share scenes. Part of the reason is that his character, Lynch, is not interesting to watch, he is a blank slate for the much more enigmatic Aguilar, who performs numerous action sequences through ancient Andalusia.

The fighting and action sequences of this film save it from being a total failure. The free-running chase sequence is incredibly impressive, whilst the numerous battles between Aguilar and several Templar soldiers are masterpieces of battle choreography. These scenes also help to show how the Animus works within the film with Fassbender’s character strapped in, fighting illusory projections of enemies. It shows of a wonderful bit of cinematography and visual FX.

df-01952_r_cropUnfortunately, the flashback sequences are always accompanied with a long, sweeping establishing shot over the top of the city. Normally, this would not be a bad thing, but when it is continually applied, it can get rather wearisome. However, it is by far one of the lesser problems with this film.

Assassin’s Creed has plenty of potential to be a good film, and with any luck, the sequels will build upon this shaky start to create something much more enticing. As it currently stands though, it’s not quite worth a watch.

Assassin’s Creed is out in cinemas now! 

The Other Side of Hope – New Trailer

There’s always room for foreign cinema in the wonderful world of films; it’s important to respect and support these films, and one of the latest comes all the way from Finland with The Other Side of Hope. Written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki, it tells the story of a poker-playing restaurateur and former traveling salesman who befriend a group of refugees newly arrived from Finland.

Admittedly, the film doesn’t look all that great; the trailer is very underwhelming. There’s not much to see, and it’s not very effective. However, it is just a trailer, and the director’s previous work seems to be well received, so hopefully the film itself is a lot better.

The Other Side of Hope doesn’t have a UK release date yet, but it’s out in Finland on February 3rd

Sherlock: Season 4, Episode 1 – “The Six Thatchers” Review

Sherlock is one of those exceptional shows that will go down in the history of television. The sharply produced cultural phenomenon spawned legions of fans all over the globe and propelled Benedict Cumberbatch into one of our most adored actors whilst solidifying Martin Freeman as one of our best. With a masterful villain, intriguing cases, and such astonishing characters, Sherlock has been the height of TV watching and then some. Everyone was holding their breath for Season 4 after we were left wondering if Moriarty is really back from the dead…

With all this pressure, it seems a bit sad that Sherlock seems to have lost its wind with a lacklustre opening.

Life has changed for both Sherlock and John. After being forced to come back from a speedy exile, Sherlock is immersed into the underground of London again as the threat of a Moriarty return looms. John, on the other hand, has a baby on the way whilst trying to adjust to home-life with Mary. However, they are quickly pulled back into the criminal underbelly when a mysterious death occurs, a broken bust of Margaret Thatcher becomes key to unravelling a bigger ploy. Can Sherlock solve the case before another death arises?

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Sherlock strives to be one of the best shows on television. In production design, clever transitions smoothly flowing from location to location as beautiful film-making provides the height of tonight’s episode. Actors are now comfortable in their roles that seeing them is like greeting an old friend. The Six Thatchers brims with character development so astute and poignant that by the finale’s crushing blow, it hits you deep within your soul. Tears well, emotions ebb, and you are immersed into the “devastating” season that was so dutifully promised (guys, we are only one episode in there is going to be more of this.) Yet to balance this, there is clever witty dialogue that snaps in intellectual banter and, though it is lesser, it certainly provides a good few chuckles.

The problem is that the shows creators knew they wanted to deliver this blow early on in the season that they jumped through many plots and leaped over many sharks to get there. The whole episode was garishly rushed as so many elements were thrown into the plot pot. Clearly only serving a purpose to stir up the dynamic, The Six Thatchers sped through so much but never delved further than the shallows. What worked in Season 1 and 2 is the drive of cases and story that it would ultimately grow our characters. But in this episode, they speed through everything and multiple cases to get to the “First Shock” that they negate the cases so easily. It’s disappointing and a bit dull.

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To call an opening episode a filler one, (especially with THAT ending) feels a little cheap, but The Six Thatchers actually serves a purpose by tying up all the plots from The Abominable Bride and His Last Vow. With the looming presence of Toby Jones already revelling in a madness that we’re excited to be a part of, The Six Thatchers is just set-up. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Sherlock has had bad episodes before, it’s just they all served a grander narrative whilst still being standalone cases in their own right. For now, the cases have been pushed to one side to toy with Sherlock and Watson; changing the pace but losing the atmosphere it once brooded with.

The biggest hope is that this’ll all come together during Season 4. With Toby Jones, that may certainly be the case.

What do you think?