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Movie Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Pretty Visuals and Floppy-haired Heroes

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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) is one of those interesting contradictions – a movie based on a video game. Okay, so confession time. I’ve played Prince of Persia on Xbox and enjoyed it. That in and of itself does not mean that you will automatically enjoy the movie, as we all well know based on previous experience.

The scale and perspective of this is huge. There is no denying that it is plenty pretty enough. There are elements in the camera work and the parkour side of the fight sequences that is taken straight out of the game and it looks really, really good. It has flow and a certain logic intrinsic to the world it creates and that is all good and fine.

The basic narrative in most games is not all that complicated. It’s a pretty straight forward “kill the evil things and save the princess” kind of deal. The movie tries to expand and embellish on this by adding age old Cain and Abel myths, giving the pretty princess a haughty and resourceful personality and adding another layer of basic myths like the orphan boy found in the street showing the qualities of a true prince amongst men, the three brothers ruling together in counsel and competing in some ways for the throne and on and on. There is also humorous sidekicks and spectacular fight sequences.
The story takes part in a mythical past, in a far off Persian Empire where the sun always shines. It starts with an attack on the sacred city of Alamut where princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) rules. Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) leads the attack. He gives his father a robe which turns out to have been poisoned. Dastan is suspected of murder and has to run for his life. And jump. And leap. And throw himself off tall buildings. You get the idea.

Adventures ensue. The why and how and wherefore does not really matter, but there are evil assassins, plotting princes, ostrich races and a magical dagger that can turn back time. It’s all about the dagger, actually, as we come to discover as the story progresses. That part is no surprise if you’ve played the game, but it’s visually stunning.

The actors involved give it an arm and a leg trying to sell this as a mythical “once upon a time” with some added mystical sides to it. Ben Kingsley is suitably Machiavellian (or maybe we should go to the Borgias for reference instead) and Jake Gyllenhaal is in spectacular shape, whereas Richard Coyle is surprisingly sympathetic as Tus, the prince regent who tries to listen to counsel. If someone could explain the accents to me, though, I would be grateful.

There is treachery and deceit, Hassansins with snakes and daggers, much fighting and running in the streets. Add to that princesses in skimpy outfits and bare-breasted heroes with floppy hair and you have the basic premise of the whole narrative arc.

After two hours of this you are left with a suitably moral lesson about brotherhood and trust and the impression that visual aspects have taken president over story. It is very visually appealing, but it is not going to go down in history as leaving you with all that much to ponder once it’s over. Also, this is a Disney movie, which means there is literally no smooching. There is also a traditional comedy ending with the promise of a wedding between the hero Dustan and the pure princess, Tamina.

All in all it is entertaining and pretty, but that is all it is. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) directed by Mike Newell stars Jake Gyllenhaal (Dastan), Gemma Arterton (Tamina), Ben Kingsley (Nizam), Alfred Molina (Sheik Amar), Toby Kebbell (Garsiv), Richard Coyle (Tus), Ronald Pickup (King Sharaman) and Steve Toussaint (Seso).

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  • Penny

    Absolutely love this review. Spot on. And very funny.

  • Mule

    Thank you, thank you. You are too kind. I’m glad it hit the spot and that I managed to entertain.