Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time opens nationwide this Friday 21 May. Though directed by Mike Newell, it bears the stamp of summer blockbuster aficionado Jerry Bruckheimer.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Dastan, a Persian orphan boy who impresses King Sharaman and is adopted to become youngest of three princely brothers. When they invade a neutral city which they believe to have advanced weaponry, we meet Princess Tamsin (Gemma Arteton), who wields the only truly powerful weapon they own: a dagger which, when sand is released from its hilt, turns back time. Dastan quickly finds himself in possession of the dagger and the unwilling princess in a tale of deception and persuasion.
Persia boasts an abundance of high-action sequences with clever choreography, swordfights, unusual weaponry, and excellent chase scenes. Eschewing the recent trend for shaky camerawork and hyper-editing, Prince of Persia returns to classic sword-wielding fantasies and adds a modern action-movie spin.
Based on the series of videogames by Jordan Mechner, those side-scrolling journeys are re-created in much the same way as Brian Singer’s cinematography captures comic book framed moments. Gyllenhaal jumps, runs and somersaults in a constant stream of movement, often across the screen and over shots, backflipping off bell-towers and racing across disjointed pillars.
Gyllenhaal’s performance is refined and feels authentic thanks to his training in parkour (a.k.a. freeruning) and performance of most of his own stunts. Additionally, the lack of over-wrought special effects makes these scenes enjoyable without relying on expensive distractions.
The action does not detract from the story. However, Dastan’s speeches are often tortuous, filled with repetitive exposition. While the story unravels steadily, the constant addition of convoluted myths becomes tiresome, slowing the pace of the film.
The supporting characters are a joy to watch. There is not a moment where you don’t beam at Ben Kingsley as Nazim, the King’s brother. Alfred Molina damn near steals the film as shady peddler (and genius businessman) Sheik Amar with his cockney spark and dastardly yet peppy demeanour.
Forgiven its indulgences, Prince of Persia is a fun summer blockbuster in the mode of Pirates of the Caribbean. With a stellar cast and an original take on the videogame genre, it’s well worth a watch.