Prince of Persia – Let Summer begin! (A review)

You may have noticed, I’m a Jake Gyllenhaal fan. This is not (solely) because he’s hot, handsome, funny, charming and intelligent, although that doesn’t hurt, it’s primarily because Jake has chosen to act in a diverse range of movies that, as a bundle, provide an intriguing glimpse into what it is that propels a talented actor onwards. Amongst the attention-grabbing Indie roles (Donnie Darko, Moonlight Mile) and the scene-stealing disaster movie (The Day After Tomorrow), we have the life-changing Brokeback Mountain and the war movie with a difference, Jarhead. There’s comedy too – Nailed may still be in the can, hopefully temporarily, but this Autumn’s Love and Other Drugs will give Jake a chance to show some of those skills he displayed on Saturday Night Live and in many of his interviews through the years. Favourite of all for me was Zodiac – a fine ensemble piece with director and actors working together to present a perfectly-crafted atmospheric and terrifying drama. This year we were given the Disney blockbuster Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

I’m a conflicted reviewer – I’m a Gyllenhaal fan and I’m also a fan of the Prince of Persia games, most particularly the original sidescrolling version (the only game I had on some decrepit bit of machinery I had to put up with a decade and a half ago) and, to a lesser extent the Sands of Time game, but I came a cropper due to some selfishly uncooperative sand monsters, despite an array of rejuvenating fountains and some tip-filled emails from friends. To throw another spanner in the works – I adore the old Sinbad movies and the 1001 Arabian Nights stories. So, I know the game, I know the actor, I want both to come out of it well, and I am so ready to jump into the wonders of Arabian Nights. Deep breaths. Let’s see the movie. Which I did – twice, once at a preview screening and the second at the premiere in London.

When I think of the film Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I imagine a screen sprinkled in glitter. This is because of the special effects involved in using the dagger to turn back time for a few seconds. What you see on the screen during those moments is evocative of sand, stardust, magic, fairytale. And that is how the film feels to me; I do feel transported into a world of legend, where daring do will win the day and wronged handsome princes and feisty overthrown princesses will overcome all odds – and their bickering – to make it all right in the end. A simplistic tale? Very possibly, but that doesn’t mean it has no value. As Jake Gyllenhaal said in an interview this week on British TV, this film provides an escape from a week of troubles – an election without a clear result and a volcano with no end in sight. At times like these, I’m ready for some escapism.

The cast of Prince of Persia shows how much Disney (and Jerry Bruckheimer) was willing to take a chance with this new-world blockbuster. Robert Downey JR has demonstrated that audiences demand something extra from their heroes and in Prince of Persia they have Indie Jake Gyllenhaal. They also have future star Gemma Arterton (I wish that the awful Clash of the Titans had not been so close in time to Prince of Persia) and Sir Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina and other fine actors such as Tobey Kebbell and Richard Coyle. Jake Gyllenhaal was a surprising choice for some, although his physical transformation speaks volumes for his dedication to this role. Jake told the Independent this Friday that, such was his pride in becoming Prince Dastan, he took a photo of himself on set just after he successfully jumped the initiation leap of 35 foot. Gemma Arterton, likewise, has proudly bragged at accomplishing her own stunts.

Interviewers have mostly focused on Jake for three things in Prince of Persia – his muscles, his accent and his fear of ostriches. I cannot possibly comment on the authenticity of Jake’s ostrich fear and his muscles speak for themselves (thank you, Disney!) but I was impressed by the accent. Not at all Dick Van Dykey, there was the occasional word which made me sit up a bit (I’ve never heard a Brit say ‘thorough’ like that) but that’s nitpicking. He did an excellent job and fitted in well with a cast of Brits. Strangely, I found Gemma Arterton’s accent more difficult to accept. Jake threw himself into the role of Dastan and it shows.

After watching Clash of the Titans I was a little worried that Gemma Arterton woud do a repeat performance in Prince of Persia but this did not happen. Perhaps the difference was that Tamina was a character into which Gemma could throw a major chunk of herself, making her feisty, strong, flirtatious and quickwitted – a worthy opponent and partner for a handsome action prince. The love interest (chemistry) between Dastan (Gyllenhaal) and Tamina (Arterton) drives the action on as we follow their quest. We’re interested in what happens to them. That’s half the battle won already.

I had my doubts about another ‘serious’ British actor playing a Hollywood baddie – Sir Ben Kingsley seemed the latest in a long line. But I paid him a disservice. Sir Ben was a surprise to me because it wasn’t a tongue-in-cheek performance, and the character was driven by something more complicated that you might at first think. Families are complicated, even without the swords and snakes. Alfred Molina was a pleasure to watch as I thought he would be and he was rewarded with a couple of the film’s most fun scenes. Some good other actors here to look out for, notably Tobey Kebbell. William Foster, too, the young boy picked to play the young Dastan due to his natural born talent for Parkour.

While the relationship between Dastan and Tamina drove the storyline along, there was plenty of action, including a chance to see some of the free running and Parkour we had heard so much about during the making of the film. There was indeed a chance for Jake to replicate some of the game’s famous moves, with some impressive leaps, acrobatics and scraps. Lots of scraps. This is a prince that hasn’t forgotten he grew up on the street. Dastan has muscles and he’s not afraid to use them. He has charm too…

Overall, this film is everything that a fun family summer blockbuster should be. Time flew. It looked amazing – the Morocco scenery and the Pinewood sets inseparable and the actors talented and appealing. The dialogue was light and cheeky and the special effects only obtrusive when they needed to be. My only criticism is that the film didn’t test (or even merit) its PG13 rating – it was harmless family fun all the way. Possibly not a bad thing after several years of quite adult-themed movies for Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s time to let the hair down.

Verdict: 8/10 (plus an extra point for having Alanis Morisette sing the closing tune ‘I Remain’ – Good choice!)

Pictures from Disney.

About Kate (For Winter Nights)

Lover of books
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21 Responses to Prince of Persia – Let Summer begin! (A review)

  1. E. says:

    A nice, honest and well thought out review…not an automatic 10 across the board as some Jake Gyllenhaal fans might have stacked it. Bravo, and I CAN’T WAIT FOR MAY 28!!!

  2. sass says:

    Wonderful review. TY. I can’t wait until I can see it!!

  3. WDW says:

    Thanks E! I realise I must be somewhat biased – after all, I’ve been following this film for 2 years! – but it was such fun. It really was. I love my Indiana Jones summer movies and this was very much in that tradition. Here we have a film with Jake in it all the way through, in almost every scene, and it’s a well-imagined and well-filmed romp from start to finish. You’ll love it!

  4. WDW says:

    Thanks Sass – can’t wait to hear what you think of it – I suspect you’ll love it… a lot!

  5. CD says:

    Please can someone tell us how long is the movie ? Because on the net we can see many possibilies such as 1:56, or 2:06, or 2:30 …
    Sorry for my English :/
    And thank you for your answer …

  6. WDW says:

    Hi CD! It’s about 1 hour and 45 minutes long from what I remember. Definitely under 2 hours. Please don’t apologise for the English 🙂

  7. Fran says:

    thank you for this review! I follow your blog and as a Gyllenhaalic i trust your vote. i hope to enjoy this film too, there are a lots of aspects of this film i really want to watch 🙂

  8. WDW says:

    Thanks, Fran! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. I read a review in Total Film today and they said that Jake was ace – that he was the heart of the movie and he did a fine job. Couldn’t agree more. Yet again we see more of Jake’s versatility. Thanks for reading WDW 😀

    • Fran says:

      Now that I have seen the movie I can agree with you 🙂 It’s a good movie, the story is beautiful for a videogame adaptation and Jake is awesome in his character. Plus the action scenes are amazing, they must have been really difficult to shoot :O Oh, and i laugh a lot 😀

  9. Ruby says:

    ooh, you said pretty much everything I would have. But much more eloquently. PoP may not be novel or innovative, but it is a fun, family movie with a simple story and is very enjoyable to watch. I liked it and I’m looking forward to seeing it again from a little bit further back in the cinema so that I can see the scenery and the action a bit better than where we were, right at the front. 🙂

  10. WDW says:

    Thank you Ruby! And that sums it up well. It really is a magical and very fun movie and I can’t wait to see it again too! I’m considering moving back in to the second row for my next viewing, but I’ll think about it seriously first 😉

  11. Carol says:

    Great to hear your thoughts on the movie Kate.

    Can’t wait to be able to add my own thoughts on the 21st!!

  12. WDW says:

    Can’t wait to hear what you think, Carol!

  13. Sheba says:

    Hello. My first time to MovieBrit as a real movie buff, I could reside here permanently but my family needs me 🙂 Having seen the movie nearly two weeks ago, put it this way, I can’t wait to see it again!! At last, a Jake Gyllenhaal family, fun movie that anyone can go to. I want to see it again for many reasons:

    1) I didn’t take all of the story in, I was too mesmerised by the Prince, he truly was standout and not because I’m biased. 2) I didn’t understand how the sand in the sword works – how is it replenished, can it be replenished and where from? 3) I missed the shirtless scene at the beginning – don’t ask! *shame face*. I’ll give a proper review after the next showing.

    The film gave a major nod to the gamers as one (who is definitely not a Jake Gyllenhaal fan) said to me recently.. “Oh, that move is in the game” several times when shown different scenes.

    Spoiler: I definitely think that the ending of the film reflected and confirmed the franchise and the infinite possibilities that PoP can now produce. I love the time paradox principles of the movie and strangely enough, I am already looking forward to the sequel.

  14. WDW says:

    Hi Sheba! Good to see you here – I’m sure by now you have seen the movie again and I hope you caught everything you missed the first time round. I did. Jake as the Prince truly is mesmerising – he’s the heart of this film and all credit to Gemma that I thought her a worthy rival and partner.

    There were some parts that definitely reminded me of the game – running along the clothes line, escaping from Garsiv did it for me. I thought the end was great! It moved me as well. Fingers crossed for a sequel 🙂

  15. sass says:

    YAY!!! 4 more days.

  16. Sheba says:

    Well, as you can imagine I’ve seen it 3 times now and 4th time this weekend with my little one. Yes thanks WDW, we caught the beginning and it was spectacular and the storyline was superb. I hope the youngster will be able to follow the storyline as I felt it was pitched to teenagers.

    I loved the relationship between Dastan and Nizam. Nizam at times showed regret in his actions but his hunger for power overrided his love for his nephew. Yes he showed regret but never thought that he would take a different path than the one he took. There was strong shakespearean elements interspersed throughout.

    How much can we discuss actual, specific plot lines here? I can’t wait until people in the US get their turn on Friday. It’s going to be a fun ride.

    NB. How do you change the stupid avatar attached to your name? Mine looks like my brain exploded.

  17. WDW says:

    Chuckle! I set the options to be monsters so everyone looks cute and fearsome, Sheba!

    As far as I’m concerned in the comments here, you can be as spoilery as you like, so talk away. I loved the character of Nizam and Sir Ben’s portrayal – the irony and arrogance in his stare.

    I’m looking forward to hearing what the others say on the other side of the pond. And also, just to stir things up a bit, I’m gonna post a review from a friend who didn’t like the film tomorrow (in the review section) so we can put up a battle. This site is not a JG site and so we must take the rough with the smooth and battle on 😀 I like that though – what’s a movie site without opinions?

  18. Karen says:

    Hi, just wanted to say that I thought the film was brilliant! I love the storyline, the characters and the settings.

    I notice some have said that they didnt like the ending. I think the ending is brilliant, and reminds me slightly of Donnie Darko where the end rewinds back to the beginning, except this time its a happy ending! I like how its a big adventure film (in the same way as Indiana Jones) but with Sci-Fi mixed in – two genres I love.

  19. mermon says:

    At last after 5 months after Polish premiere I came here to read your beautiful review of POP. I can see right away how you like the film and prince Dastan 🙂 It feels in your words. Well, what can I say. It’s one of my favourite movies. I give 10/10. Not only because I’m Jake’s big fan but because of the movie itself. During those passed months I have watched it 5 times in the cinema and many times at home and impression is still the same, touching my heart in so many levels. Great cast, all of them, even less important characters like Biss – are so good in acting. I like very much the dialogues, British accent (oh Jake!) fast action, stunts, slowly growing love between Dastan and Tamina, humour, music, costumes, scenery – everything.
    I still can’t understand the poor response of American audience.

  20. WDW says:

    Thanks so much for the comments, Karen and Mermon! You know I feel just the same 🙂

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