Film: ‘Prince of Persia’; Director: Mike Newell; Cast: Jake Gyllenhall, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina; Rating: ***
America is a strange nation. This country invades one nation after another under different pretexts while its filmmakers, in different ways and in as many films, offer to critique the nation’s same warring mentality. Joining the fray while using a not-so-veiled analogy is this latest Hollywood special-effects extravaganza from Disney.
The great Persian empire (like the great American empire today) stretches far across the planet and is ruled by a just king and his prime minister brother. Moved by the bravery of a young orphan, the king adopts him and raises him with his own two sons. This boy, Dastan, grows to be a brave and intelligent prince, and able companion to his brothers.
Once passing though a kingdom revered for its knowledge, a spy reveals a cache of highly sophisticated weaponry allegedly belonging to the place. So, despite the kings warning, the prince, and their uncle attack and capture it and its princess Tamina.
However, Tamina holds the secrets of the dagger and sand of time that can transport one back to the past. Yet, before much is known, things get out of hand as the wise king is killed by a robe Dastan has gifted. The prince of Persia now becomes a wanted man as he tries to absolve himself, but instead discovers a conspiracy greater than he had imagined.
The first half of the film is exactly what the US is doing to Iraq, with ironically Persia (erstwhile Iraq and the middle east Asia) being the oppressor in the case. The analogy of weapons of mass destruction is made too obvious for any discerning viewer to miss. The second half is an entertaining chase through a maze of obstacles that Dastan and Tamina have to overcome, before they can stop the destruction of the world.
There is nothing spectacular about the film. Yet, it is entertaining enough to grip the viewer’s attention to the very end. After a slew of Hollywood films based on popular video games that fail as films, this one manages to hold its own.
Jake Gyllenhall’s new avatar as a swashbuckling, muscular hero in contrast to his serious performance before is convincing, as is the performance of most of the cast. What is not convincing is the different accents of English – American, British, Irish etc. in a film that is supposed to be based in Persia.
‘Prince of Persia’ will do good to beat the summer heat, but won’t inspire a long term recollection in the viewer. Despite the obviously political analogy, it is not a film that takes itself seriously, and neither should the viewer.