Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
  • Time: 116 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Fantasy
  • Director: Mike Newell
  • Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley


At the height of the Persian Empire’s power and influence, the King’s adopted son Prince Dastan leads an attack on the sacred city of Alamut under orders from the Crown Prince, Tus, after it is revealed the city may be the source of arms for their enemies. The battle is quickly won and Dastan takes possession of an interesting dagger, one that Alamut’s Princess Tamina is keen to recover. Dastan is soon on the run however when his gift to the King poisons him, putting Nizam on the throne. Tamina tells him the importance of the dagger – it can transport the bearer back in time. With his new found weapon, Dastan sets out to change past events and learn the identity of the man who betrayed them and killed his adopted father.

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  • Super Mario Bros. (1993). Street Fighter (1994). Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). Resident Evil (2002). The list of movies adapted from video games that make you want to tear the skin from your own face goes on and on. Still, without a notable exception to the rule, producers keep greenlighting these films, and stars still line up to appear in them. If any producer was capable of bucking the trend, it’s action connoisseur Jerry Bruckheimer, who somehow managed to turn a theme park ride that centred around cinema’s most floppable subject (pirates), and turned it into a billion-dollar, Oscar-nominated franchise.

    While Prince of Persia underperformed commercially and didn’t end up on any critics’ annual top 10 lists, it’s the best video game adaptation I’ve seen (although that isn’t saying much). The plot centres around prince Dastan (a six-packed Jake Gyllenhaal), who after being plucked from the street as a child after the King (Ronald Pickup) was impressed by his moxie, now fights and laughs alongside his adopted father’s blood sons, Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsiv (Toby Kebbell). He is at the front of an attack on Alamut, who Dastan’s uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) has accused of selling weapons to their enemies. After taking the city, he meets the beautiful princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton), but soon finds himself on the run, wrongly accused of his father’s murder and in possession of a magic dagger able to control time.

    Director Mike Newell is quite the opposite of what you would call an auteur. He’s a sort of jack-of-all-trades, directing movies of all genres and of varying quality, from the awful, foppish comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), to the impressive gangster flick Donnie Brasco (1997), and he even had a dabble in the most successful film series of all time with Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), one of the best of the franchise. His erratic’s rub off on Prince of Persia. Writers Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard are wise enough to deliver an actual story rather than simply trying to replicate the charms of the video game, and the chest-pumping antics of the brothers’ strained relationship keep things intriguing enough, even though we’re stuck with the drippy (but undeniably sexy) Tamina for the most part.

    It suffers when trying to deliver a breakneck, or even fathomable, action scene. Though Gyllenhaal nails the part – he brings a cocky, Errol Flynn-esque charm to the role – his dust-up’s are confusing and messy. The sandy streets of Persia and the scorched deserts surrounding it are lavish, and touches of CGI can make the screen light up. It sometimes it achieves this, but overuses it to the point where the visuals become bloated and unreal. I’ve only seen the game played once or twice, but I could see why the series is so popular, and while the film certainly catches the look of the game and provides a few wink-wink in-jokes for the gamers, it lacks the games breathlessness. Things picks up slightly when comic relief Alfred Molina and his racing ostrich’s show up, and it often feels swashbuckling in the old-fashioned sense, but this is formulaic, instantly forgettable stuff.

    Rating: 3/5

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