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PRINCE OF PERSIA (Sands of time): Movie Review

GENRE: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Adaptation
ROARS: 3.75 Out of 5

Rated: PG-13 / Run Time: 1 Hr. 55 Min.

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Alfred Molina, Ben Kingsley, Steve Toussaint

DIRECTOR(S) ke Newell, Alexander Witt

So it finally arrived. Man, it’s been almost a year since I’ve seen the trailer for this film. One thing I know stood out immediately was the title and laying it to the film’s star. It was pretty strange for me to swallow Jake Gyllenhaal playing a Persian. I have nothing against the guy. He entertains me and I think he’s one of Hollywood’s finest actors. However, there was somewhat of a discomforting feeling knowing that Hollywood has total disregard for authenticity at times. There are some Persian actors running around in Tinsel Town who not only would have looked the part, but also [sound it] as well. I know it’s a business and there’s profit sharing for ALL those with vested time, but it’s something I’ll never understand. In the end, it’s Hollywood. It’s how they run the business and hey… if they can title a film The Mexican with Brad Pitt or The Last Samuri with Tom Cruise and lastly Al Pacino play a Cuban in Scarface or a Puerto Rican in Carlito’s way, I guess I better keep my mouth shut. In the end, who am I or what kind of weight do my thoughts or words carry? None!

Moving along: After having seen too many promos and pictures and finally the film… Is it me or does Jake Gyllenhaal resemble Jennifer Aniston? Or does Jennifer Aniston resemble Jake Gyllenhaal? IN THIS particular film, it doesn’t matter who mirrors who, but there’s a strange uncanny resemblance between the two. I think if Jake’s eye-brows were trimmed, had a clean shaven face and sported this exact same hair, he’d look like her. Or again, she’d look like him. Or – you know what? Who gives a shit? Just something I noticed. If you think I’m crazy. Well, go ahead. Take a look at this pic and YOU tell ME.

Jennifer Gyllenhaal

Ok, that’s out of the way. Here we go.

Of course, the big question, is whether this film can break the common viewpoint of movies being adapted from Video Games be any good (and a few would still think the good ones would include Mortal Kombat and maybe Tomb Raider, while others might argue the point). Well, to be fair, I never played any Prince of Persia and I’ve never really seen the various versions. Doubt I ever will and doubt that I’m going to look for the latest version (Prince of Persia – The Forgotten Sands) anytime soon for purposes of film comparison. I don’t give a shit.

As a movie, however, there was some expectation given the pedigree behind the camera, particularly Jerry Bruckheimer – who can produce an entertaining grand and maybe epic adventure from time to time – and director Mike Newell – who really impressed in turning out an impressively Harry Potter movie based on the most dense of the novels. The wild card was Jake Gyllenhaal, who had never been proven as an adventurous or action hero (then again Bruckheimer does go with some oddball action hero choices like Johnny Depp in the Pirates of The Caribbean movies, John Cusack in Con Air, bringing in Nicolas Cage on The Rock (he hadn’t really done action movies at the time) and of course, a young rapper/comedian called Will Smith in Bad Boys). Could the kid we knew as “Donnie Darko” or the love interest of Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain carry an action film? (In all fairness, he did do Jarhead) Well…

Dastan (Gylllenhaal) starts out as a street urchin who accidentally proves he has some glimmer of value and is taken in (adopted on the spot) by the King of Persia. When the story picks up 15 years later, Dastan, and his brothers are about to attack the holy city of Amalut where the Princess / Priestess of Amalut, Tamina (Arterton), guards a mystical and sacred dagger capable of turning back time for short periods. Through a series of coincidences typical to this type of adventure, our hero finds himself accused of murdering the King, and is soon on the run with the Princess, not really knowing that he is in possession of the MacGuffin – The Dagger of Time. As the plot moves along, we learn more about the dagger, its purpose and just how the whole movie would revolve around this little item (much like how Raiders of The Lost Ark would revolve around who would posses the Ark in the end), and how it all ties to the idea of Destiny.

Yes, I did invoke “Raiders”, and I suppose it might be something of a circle when we consider how that movie and its like inspired video games such as “Prince of Persia,” which in turn brought about this movie that seems to have that old fashioned sense of adventure. Gyllenhaal does a commendable job (except for the BAD accent) in releasing Dastan as something of a roguish hero than some stuffy royal-blooded Prince who is out for power or glory. There is some charm in his performance and the chemistry he has with Arterton’s Princess Tamina is actually enjoyable and they try to one up each other for the possession of the dagger. Arterton herself does better here, giving a more full-blooded performance than in Clash Of The Titans earlier this year. There is a sense that there are emotions boiling just below that beauteous surface, mostly conveyed in the eyes. It’s a very controlled performance, but probably attributed to her character who is trying to constantly keep her secrets from Dastan most of the time.

Also noted are the action sequences that might resemble some very ancient form of free running (not too much) as Dastan does his thing in escaping from the soldiers from time to time. Of course, it does resemble the kind of action you’d find in contemporary video games as well (an early sequence where Dastan is breaking into the castle and has to take out a troop of soldiers, you’ll know it when you see it), but that line is getting very blurred indeed these days. Still, it is entertaining with some nicely done death-defying moments, even if it does look extremely computerized and it is mixed with decent hand-to-hand moments so that it’s not entirely reliant on motion capture or CGI. Just a little old-school feel to some of the proceedings and it’s nice that its there.

Typically of a summer film, there are some truly epic moments with a very big sequence to sort things out at the end, although the final act is far more subdued than one would expect. Perhaps it’s the nature of the game, or beast, or Jerry Bruckheimer, or perhaps the plot device itself, which most would probably see it coming while others might feel utterly cheated (probably depending if you chose to check your brains at the door). The sense is that by the end, you’re either going to be disappointed or you feel satisfied with the conclusion, but there wouldn’t be any doubt that getting there is an enjoyable entertaining ride of an adventure in its own right.