Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Starring Jake Gylenhaal, Gemma Arteton, Alfred Molina, Ronald Pickup and Ben Kingsley. Directed by Mike Newell.
Rated M (violence). 111mins. 

In terms of colourful action, Prince of Persia elicits a number of 'Wows'! If you want action, you've got it, in exotic settings with plenty of special effects.

It has been produced by veteran Jerry Bruckheimer, well-known for many a slam-bang show from Top Gun, Con Air to the Pirates of the Carribean franchise. This one looks as if somebody made him a bet that he couldn't produce a movie that was almost all action (with a few conversations here and there which do not really halt the momentum at all). He has won the bet.

We are back in the Persian Empire with the rule of a powerful king (Ronald Pickup) who relies on his younger brother for support and loyalty (Ben Kingsley). He has two sons but is impressed by the derring do and challenge of a young orphan in the marketplace and adopts him as his son. Right from the start we see Dastan, the boy (who grows up to be Jake Gylenhaal) running, jumping, leaping, bouncing, somersaulting, swinging. Director Mike Newell said that Gylenhaal spent weeks rehearsing all these moves and stunts doing a number of them himself but still letting the stunt doubles get plenty of action. (One distraction, however, Gylenhaal's accent seems as if it has been dubbed in a Jude Law vein with a touch of Michael Caine.)

The King wants to confront a sacred city to investigate their loyalty or whether they were making and shipping arms to enemies of the kingdom. The armies invade, prepare for a siege, but Dustan uses his wits and his athleticism and in no time has entered the city, opened the gates, poured boiling oil on the defenders. It is all breathtaking stuff – and we are probably more out of puff than Dustan is.

In the city there is a princess (Gemma Arteton), guardian of a dagger that has mystical/magical powers and can reverse time – which comes in handy at a number of times of danger, and is most useful for the ending.

When the king dies burned, by a poisoned cloak, Dustan is blamed, so that leads to lots of trekking though the desert, lots of chases, encounters with a Sheikh who calls himself an entrepreneur (and has all the funny lines, delivered humorously and lightly ironically by Alfred Molina). He has a servant from the Sudan who is the quickest with knife throwing, and he comes in handy many a time and for the climax.

By this stage, we might think that action might let up and the conversations get a bit longer and more frequent, but they don't. There is really only one kiss between Dustan and the Princess, so very little time wasted on romance.
Treachery, deceit, plots, more chases and, with echoes of Indiana Jones and the National Treasure films, caves with traps, fire, erupting sand and even more heroics.

Yes, it is a lavishly produced adventure (even with some literal cliffhangers, especially at the end) of the Boys' Own kind (which may be a bit too junior macho for a female audience) but it is exciting and entertaining matinee material for any time of the day or night. Older audiences might be reminiscing about those b-budget adventures from the 1950s with Tony Curtis, Victor Mature and Piper Laurie. The Prince of Persia is much the same only larger, longer, pacier.

Walt Disney  Out May 27 2010

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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