‘Prince of Persia’ is about Dastaan, an orphan who, because of his spirited acrobatic skills, is chosen as a prince, though the king already has two sons. Some stroke of destiny this! Alas, fifteen years later the destiny isn’t as graceful for the princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) of a neighboring holy city.
Dastaan, played by Jake Gyllenhall, as the prince of Persia, leads the war against her city. It is here that he chances upon a sacred ‘dagger’ that has mystical sands in it; sands that allow its holder a chance to go back in time, though for little periods! It is this dagger that unites Tamina and Dastaan on a visual effect filled adventurous journey teaching them about treachery and love, time and destiny.
Now if this film competes with ‘films based on a video game’ category only, it would easily stand out as the best of the lot. You relate to this film much better than you would to the ‘Mortal Combat’ series or the ‘Laura Tomb’ films. The visual effects, especially in the action scenes are thrilling. The props, costumes, acrobatics, music, ostrich racing etc. satiate the primitive need of any action thriller fan! Add to it the setting of a desert and Gemma Arterton.
It is incidentally Gemma Arterton’s presence that makes you feel like you are watching a Bond movie just that Bond had gone back in time! There are weapons you haven’t seen before, there is a world to save, there is a villain wearing the veil of nobility and then there is a hero who can go in and out of any situation, infact go back and forth in time too!
But if the film tries to come across as a fun filled thriller that would want to make you sit and keep watching it for its tricks, well it needs a reality check. If story telling has its root in getting its audiences connected emotionally, there are hardly any scenes in ‘Prince of Persia’ that make you feel for any characters! Even the beaten path of ‘an unwilling hero put in a situation to help his family, and hence the world’ can’t save it. Ben Kingsley and other actors do try to bring some charm but it is only Gemma Arterton’s acting that soothes your senses.
When it comes to charm, Jake Gyllenhall is no Hugh Grant, or when it comes to acting he is no Johnny Depp! And why would a director like Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Donnie Brasco) choose him as the Prince of Persia requires a lot of intensive interrogation. Was it Jake’s ability to run and run with utmost intensity whenever the director said “go”?
Intensity is the key word here, because if you have seen any visual effects period movie that tries to push you off your seat you’d know what it means. ‘India Jones’ or a ‘Mummy’ or a ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ have so much to offer, that at any point of time through the film there is a specific emotion you are feeling thanks to the visuals. But in ‘Prince of Persia: Sands of Time’ you might feel the need to watch the next action sequence a bit sooner!
The romance between the lead is as pale as the desert setting, and the dialogue wavers from being witty to bland! Computer graphics don’t surprise us any more, unless there is another breakthrough, and this film can’t even the break the monotony of ‘trapped, saved, escaped’ monotony it sets to itself!
However it is up to how the ‘not so often’ glimpses of brilliance that the film offers that manages to put an adhesive to your seat. Like when the hero climbs a wall, or is falling off in a sand slide, or tells the princess that he isn’t actually a prince!
Yes, this movie could have been much more than a visual thriller, but it just about manages to remain there.