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PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME

SYNOPSIS:
The rogue prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) reluctantly joins forces with the mysterious princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and together they race against dark forces to safeguard an ancient dagger capable of releasing the Sands of Time - a gift from the gods that can reverse time and allow its possessor to rule the world.

Review by Louise Keller:
Trust your heart is the moral of this large scale swashbuckling tale filled with sword play, thrilling non-stop action and a hint of romance. Based on a video game, director Mike Newell has pulled out all stops to deliver an energetic and visually exciting adventure whose themes are ambition and betrayal. The first thing to notice is that the film looks fabulous. Through John Seale's lens, we are immersed in the exotic Morocco-for-Persia locations: we almost feel as though we need to cover our face to protect us from the desert's penetrating dust. A super-buffed, fit and charismatic Jake Gyllenhaal (with excellent English accent) makes a dashing hero as Prince Dastan, whose street smarts are key to his mission of saving the world from a mystical and lethal sandstorm.

In the opening scenes, we see first hand how Gyllenhaal's Prince Dastan earned his right to become one of the King's sons; his sharply tuned instincts more than replace his lack of royal blood. There are showy acrobatics, impressive knife throwing, deadly asps, furious battles and beguilingly, the secret of the dagger hidden within its glowing handle.

Gemma Arterton is appealing as the feisty, curvaceous heroine Princess Tamina of Alamut, who is key to the plot as well as being Prince Dastan's love interest. Yes, there's plenty of chemistry there as their cat and mouse game becomes a lesson in trust. Ben Kingsley, (with black eyeliner) is effective as the ambitious, two-faced Nizam and Alfred Molina's Sheik Amar is pure theatre as the slave entrepreneur who talks too much. It's a cast of thousands, but the central story remains clear as Prince Dastan discovers to his detriment that his father's favourite saying about the bond between brothers being stronger than the sword can also be coated in irony.

The best special effects are those that are integrated seamlessly to enhance the storyline. And that is the case here. All the action scenes and innovative choreography are well handled, involving us in a ripper of an armchair adventure about good and evil. Harry Gregson-Williams's score is fabulous too - I couldn't stop humming the theme as I left the theatre.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Need a break from the stress of an upcoming exam? Or from the boredom of your cement backyard? Escape is at hand in this video game turned movie, with virtually non-stop action (pardon the pun) in an ancient Persia (around the 9th century) where a mysterious sand-filled dagger and its intended resting place hold the world's history in a time lock. Unlock these forces and you can go back, rewrite the bits of history you don't like ... or rather the bits that do not lead you to be the ruler of the world.

Jake Gyllenhaal is the latest boy next door to turn into a major action hero on the screen, playing the once orphaned young lad whose bravery attracts the attention of the King, propelling him into the Palace as the putative Prince Dastan. Soon, the boy is a young man who has the right heart (and build) for a ruler: he is decent, fair (and a damned good fighter). When despite his better instincts his older brother leads the army into attacking the sacred city of Alamut - when spies tell stories of a secret cache of weapons in the city (sound familiar?) - Dastan goes to the front. Once he has breached the city walls, he meets the gorgeous Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton). Dastan's destiny is now set.

Things go pear-shaped for him when Dastan's father the King is poisoned and he's the main suspect. There follows an adventure in which he has to save the Princess, guard the dagger with magical time powers, and return it to its sacred resting place. All the while escaping from his revenge - driven brothers and uncle (Ben Kingsley). Ah, yes, also the Hashashins, pro killers secretly hired by the King's real murder.

The film is directed with grand abandon by the illustrious Mike Newell (who directed Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire [2005]), embracing the needs of his target audience, delivering the 'cool' factors of swordplay, ancient myths and all the pomp and colour of the imagined Persian empire of the distant past. This has not constrained the writers' from peppering the dialogue with distinctive French words like 'penchant' and 'entrepreneur'. Nor is the film a stickler for cultural accuracy; the endearing vagabond Sheik Amar is played with fruity East London characteristics (and accent) by the always useful Alfred Molina. But then most everyone speaks plummy English, Gyllenhaal included.

But the film is not meant to be taken too seriously (especially by adults), although some of the story elements are intended to be relevant to the world today, and to explore human nature. It is, however, made with considerable craftsmanship: with Aussie John Seale handling cinematography, you can rely on the visuals being marvellous, both the epic external scenes and the closer, more intimate interior scenes. Harry Gregson-Williams punches out the cues with the required intensity, playing on and with the music conventions of the genre.
First published in the Sun Herald

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0


PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (M)
(US, 2010)

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Reece Ritchie, Alfred Molina, Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle, Ambika Jois, Gísli Örn Garđarsson, Ronald Pickup, Steve Toussaint, Dave Pope

PRODUCER: Jerry Bruckheimer

DIRECTOR: Mike Newell

SCRIPT: Doug Miro, Carlo Bernard (videogame series Jordan Mechner)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Seale

EDITOR: Mick Audsely, Martin Walsh

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Wolf Kroeger

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 27, 2010







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