Prince Of Persia

Prince Of Persia

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Too often eagerly-awaited films like this one are spoiled by high expectations, but when a film is based on a game, is it really possible to have high expectations? The likes of Max Payne, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and especially Doom, would tend to mitigate against it. Prince Of Persia fans, then, will be pleased to know that this film defies low expectations and actually acquits itself rather well.

At the heart of this is an affectionate respect for the source material. Prince Of Persia started out as a platform game before developing into a more sophisticated 3D adventure largely focused on puzzle-solving. Although this film is based on the first of those later games, The Sands Of Time, it begins with inventive platform-jumping action that will bring big smiles to the faces of early fans. Impressive parkour stunt-work continues throughout, but there's also an opportunity to engage with some of those puzzles; whilst watching somebody else complete them doesn't provide quite the same reward, the viewer sees just enough to have a chance to try and figure out action sequences before they happen, and the physicality of those scenes is such that watching them unfold is properly gripping.


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Jake Gyllenhaal's casting as the titular prince certainly raised an eyebrow or two when it was first announced, but he fits in perfectly with the director's approach. He's muscular enough to convince as an action hero yet, as an actor, he brings an essential vulnerability to the role, reminding us that his character is just a human being - a sheltered younger brother at that - and bad things can easily happen to him. This keeps us on the edge of our seats even though, ultimately, we know this is a Disney film and everything will be A-okay at the end.

In the meantime, the prince - Dastan - has a lot to contend with. After invading a holy city in good faith, he has no sooner realised he has made a mistake than he is framed for murder and forced to flee into the desert. Fortunately he has the local princess (unfortunately played by an uninspired Gemma Arterton) to help him. He also has a mysterious dagger that just might possess magical powers, but as it turns out, both the princess and the dagger are a lot more trouble than they first appear.

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Formulaic though it is, the film is undeniably a lot of fun, with a good balance of peril, action, romance and humour. For once the comic support doesn't grate, perhaps because it comes primarily from the masterful Alfred Molina, thoroughly enjoying himself as a desert-dwelling entrepreneur whose love of ostriches is only matched by his hatred for taxes. Ben Kingsley and Steve Toussaint also shine in supporting roles, though Gísli Örn Garðarsson's creepy bad guy cannot help but jar, looking like a refugee from a straight-to-VHS science fiction film.

The film is hampered by a couple of weak plot devices that don't quite make logical sense, but, unusually, it actually fits in well with the traditional Disney approach to celebrating family. It's quite watchable as an action movie in its own right and, as an adaptation of the much-loved game, it's better than anybody had a right to expect.

Reviewed on: 17 May 2010
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Framed for murder, a young prince in possession of a mysterious sacred dagger must fight for justice - and fight to stay alive.
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Director: Mike Newell

Writer: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Toby Kebbell, Richard Coyle, Ronald Pickup, Gísli Örn Garðarsson

Year: 2010

Runtime: 116 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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