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Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2.5 out of 5

IN 2003 producer Jerry Bruckheimer took a popular Walt Disney theme park ride and turned it into one of the most unashamedly enjoyable films of past times in the form of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.

He attempts to repeat the trick with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a film based around a popular computer game, with much less enjoyable results.

Directed by Mike Newell, the film struggles to escape the pitfalls of most game-to-film adaptations in that it’s probably more fun to play than it is to watch.

And that’s even in spite of the weight of talent that’s been assembled and the high production costs.

Bruckheimer himself admits to envisaging a film that offered a fantasy variation on the films of David Lean (circa Lawrence of Arabia) as well as the tales of the Arabian nights (The Thief of Baghdad et al), while cast member Sir Ben Kingsley has alluded to plot elements that veer towards the Shakespearean.

But while the intent sounds admirable, there’s no escaping the fact that what ensues is still based on a computer game and that, in execution at least, the film owes more to recent throwaway fare like The Mummy and Clash of the Titans.

The plot follows the fortunes of former street urchin Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) as he is elevated to Prince status by a kindly king who spots the good in him.

When he’s framed for the same king’s murder years later, he’s forced to go on the run to prove his innocence with a rival princess (Gemma Arterton) while attempting to outwit his two brothers (Richard Coyle and Toby Kebbell) and their scheming uncle (Sir Ben Kingsley) in the search for a mystical dagger with time-travelling powers.

To be fair, Newell’s action-adventure looks spectacular and boasts some fine set pieces that will probably keep younger viewers enthralled.

Gyllenhaal also cuts a credible action hero (complete with OK English accent) and shares some nice, sparky chemistry with Arterton (luminous, as always), while there’s decent support from Kebbell and a suitably OTT Alfred Molina as an ostrich racing gambler sheikh.

But in spite of these positives, the film is also cumbersome at times and consistently struggles to find the right balance between the knockabout fun and the more weightier elements of the story.

Kingsley seems to be taking things far too seriously and feels out of keeping with those around him, while the numerous double crosses and time travelling elements add needless, and not entirely satisfying, complexity to what is really a bog-standard good vs evil chase story.

While plot elements involving the futile search for weapons of mass destruction feel like a cheap and ill-advised attempt to lend the movie contemporary resonance.

As good as some set pieces are, meanwhile, there are many that look too computer generated, which also hampers the overall enjoyment value.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is by no means a complete disaster and gets by as big, dumb blockbuster spectacle for the more undemanding viewer. But it could – and probably should – have been a great deal better.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 116mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: September 13, 2010