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Prince of Persia: The Sands of time

The film makes no concession for its setting — except the names,the slight tans and the little dupatta on Princess Tamina’s (Arterton) head.

Written by Shalini Langer | New Delhi |
May 29, 2010 1:03:48 am

DIRECTOR: Mike Newell

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

Rating: **

VIDEO games aren’t really meant to inspire thought. Imagine one involving a dagger,containing a small vial of sand that turns back time,which can be used to pierce a giant hourglass below the holy city of Alamut that holds the future of mankind within its mass; one which can be hidden away in a rocky place somewhere else for safekeeping and is the creation of wrathful gods beseeched upon to spare fellow earthlings by a young girl. Meanwhile,the sand in the dagger just blows away with every use.

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One would have expected gods to entrust the future of mankind in something more solid than a small glass vial and walls of sand,but that’s just a thought — video games aren’t really meant to encourage the same.

Even if we leave thought aside,what makes Prince of Persia — about an orphan boy adopted by the King who proves himself the true heir to his legacy — worth its two-hour length? The film makes no concession for its setting — except the names,the slight tans and the little dupatta on Princess Tamina’s (Arterton) head. Everybody speaks American in varying accents. And it makes no attempt at a surprise or a twist. Along a tried-and-tested graph of fighting sequences,Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) leaps across roofs,sprints up and down walls,somersaults,and nearly every 10 minutes finds himself hanging on to things for life. If and when he does get hurt,you won’t hear,see or feel the wound.

His detractors range from an army that’s no match to his fort-scaling abilities to a petty,tax-evading businessman (Molina) with a passion for ostriches,to a gang of assassins called Hassansins and the King’s Nizam (a heavily kohled Kingsley putting his eyeballs and eyebrows through some generous permutations to let you know who’s the evil eye of the family).

Amid this almost dervish frenzy to keep the audiences interested in the story,the dagger is used but very sparingly. The effect of the sands of time transporting you to the past is not bad for a film that otherwise clutches at everything to make an impression. Besides,even if you know the background is computer-generated,some scenes — like the one where Dastan,perched high above,on a plank,surveys Alamut in one sweep — are quite impressive.

Gyllenhaal,in fact,is easily the best thing about the film. In a performance far removed from his usual roles,the genial Brokeback Mountain actor is endearing and effective as the “Lion of Persia”. Arterton too pulls off Tamina reasonably well,from looking dark and lovely and getting on to horses in one fluid motion to making the most of both the swords and words coming her way.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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