To be sure, the setting in which I viewed this formulaic film (a nearly sold-out stadium seating screen with teens who also managed to simultaneously carry on full-volume conversations and text absent friends) did not help my opinion of it. There were actually elements that made me think at some point a real writer had his hands on the script. (There are three credited – which could mean several more who were not). I cannot decide whether it began as a fairly good script and was stripped or if a writer was brought in to stitch some dangling pieces back together. If the former is the case, it would explain how they signed Freeman and McAvoy to the project. But it seems more likely that the latter is true, since the basis is rather silly to begin with.
In true Star Wars rip-off fashion, the audience is introduced to nihilistic father who has a son he’s never known. The two lead opposite existences – The father as cutthroat assassin and son as a account management specialist with a hungry cat and an annoying girlfriend. His father is killed on a rooftop ambush and the league of assassins to which he belonged recruits his son, played by James McAvoy. The lure is his father’s assets, which are quite substantial, and the sultry stare and tattooed arms of Angelina Jolie, who looks pretty much like a Gap ad the whole time (white shirt, khakis, too much eyeliner).
Morgan Freeman plays the head of this secret society, which has its roots in the ancient Weavers clans from 1000 years ago. Then the attempts to tie this story together can no longer hold. It turns out that these assassins are working on the information given to them by the “Loom of Fate”, a giant machine of Industrial Revolution era that is fed by a web of strings from somewhere in the ether. This loom produces a coded message, hidden in the patterns of weave which equal 1s and 0s – a binary code – which when translated equals a person’s name, who is next on the list to be killed.
There is training and heartache and distrust and learning and all the feel-good things that go along with being thrown into a new environment. The only thing that makes these standard scenes watchable is McAvoy. He stunningly manages to find footholds in the precipitous script. Yet even he cannot save the last of many Star Wars scenes badly referenced. McAvoy learns the true identity of his father too late and after dangling by one hand, chooses to fall down a massive chasm rather than face the lie. Really, we had to go to Empire Strikes Back for this? He does as the script insists, but I couldn’t help but notice a hint of reluctance.