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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Like Sand Through The Hourglass


If I had to describe Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time in one word, it would be: Brown. This is the brownest movie I've ever seen. Everything is brown. The sand, the buildings, even the skies. And the people. Especially the people. Not that the principal actors are Persian by any means. Most are British, except for the lead, American Jake Gyllenhaal. But they're all painted brown with black raccoon eyes. The spray tanner and mascara budget on this picture must have been astronomical. A buff, not-entirely-convincing, but very game Gyllenhaal plays Prince Dastan, a poor boy who was adopted by the King of Persia and grew up with the king's biological sons. He's like the Persian Tom Hagen, if Don Corleone's consigliere could run up the sides of buildings and acrobatically fight with scimitars. A whole lot of battling and killing commences over the movie's Macguffin: a dagger containing the fabled Sands of Time, which allows the holder to travel back one minute in the past (but not to the future). There's a lot of bewildering backstory about "the gods" who created the sands and the dagger (what religion are these Persians anyway?) and how piercing the dagger into a subterranean wall of sand and releasing the sand in the dagger would unleash the Armageddon of sand, or something. Beautiful Gemma Arterton got the thankless job of doling out all of this exposition, but it does give her a lot more to do (and some flatteringly flimsy costumes to wear) than she did in Clash of the Titans. Gyllenhaal and Arterton try to work a muted kind of Han Solo-Princess Leia vibe together (he the rebel with a noble heart, she the uppity princess with a noble heart); Prince of Persia is most interesting when we're watching them banter and fall in love.  Then the filmmakers work a Superman turning back time ending that takes away everything they worked hard for that was enjoyable.  The plot is incredibly busy, rushing from one acrobatic sword fight to the next, so that it's very difficult to care what's going on. Gyllenhaal takes over half the movie to realize the incredibly obvious, that the villain is Sir Ben Kingsley, then he spends the rest of the movie trying to convince everyone else Kingsley's the villain. (Remember a time before Sexy Beast when Sir Ben Kingsley was known for being Gandhi, and you didn't automatically guess he's the villain the second you see him in a movie?) The strangest thing in Prince of Persia is Alfred Molina as a sheik businessman who rails endlessly against taxes and the bureaucracy(?) of the Persian kingdom not allowing him to conduct his ostrich races. Meanwhile, in a shameless and thinly-veiled allegory to Iraq, the Persians invade Arterton's city at the start of the movie under the guise of searching for fictional weapons of mass destruction.