Movie Review: "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

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When we are born, there is no written rule or doctrine that says we cannot be more or less of who we are. Our destiny is not written in a book but created by the choices we make and the lessons of life that we choose as our morals. Walt Disney was even quoted as saying, “all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” And how true it is when Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures bring together a dynamic group of artists to create a world that many like me, have only experienced through the series of video games, and have now been painted on the big screen in “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”.

Bruckheimer is known for bringing out the big guns or swords, when it comes to epic telling of tales. This keeps in line with his style of filmmaking, let alone his panache for choosing over the top stories. I think that is the key to his success. Using the right story, or in this case mythology of stories to create something that I believe will be another good franchise for him and the Walt Disney Company. As with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, Bruckheimer pulls in some of the industry’s top talent to bring the creator of the “Prince of Persia” game series, Jordan Mechner’s, characters to life.

Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Mona Lisa Smile) directs a group of young actors on the up and up as well as a couple extraordinary veteran actors on a grand journey of emotions and some silliness with a splash of present day concerns. Bringing this heroic story written by Mechner himself to the screen is Boaz Yakin (Death in Love, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights), Doug Miro (The Uninvited, The Great Raid) and Carlo Bernard (The Uninvited, The Great Raid). These three have done a wonderful duty in keeping Mechner’s mythology in place and mixing some references of our current day that could ring true in the land of Persia. Bringing out the emotion of the film through a breathtaking orchestration is Harry Gregson-Williams (X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Déjà vu). His sweeping movements of wanting or passionate race of fervor drive the visuals and spoken word. The action on the screen, the acting brought forth and the pulsating music keep you engaged and wanting more. On to the story…

Venture back when kingdoms ruled the world. Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a prince of heart not by birth, until he is seen by the King defending a young boy whom he has no connection to. The King see’s this true honor of heart and brings him into his family since he has none, making him a Prince of Persia. Time passes, though raised by the King and his uncle Nizam (Sir Ben Kingsley) along with the Kings two sons Tus (Richard Coyle) and Garsive (Toby Kebbell), Dastan still has the rough edge of a soul. Dastan also reacts to his gut and heart when making a choice. When it is decided to attack a holy city he goes against the plan and makes his own path to the goal where during the ensuing attack stumbles upon a special dagger. Once the city has fallen is it discovered that there is someone who is the guardian of the dagger, Tamina (Gemma Arterton). She knows it’s secret, that whoever holds the dagger has the ability to turn back time or destroy the world. When the King comes to call the brothers together to find out why they took this holy city, treachery is cast on the King who is killed by a gift from Dastan. This pairs our two heroic opposites of Tamina and Dastan, in a race against that which they have the power to control but not plenty of, time, to uncover the mystery of the dagger and who is trying to control it.

This is a great start for what could be a long term partnership with Jake Gyllenhall (Brothers, Brokeback Mountain) and Bruckheimer. Put aside the whole issue of his ethnicity for one simple fact, Persia in the time frame we are playing, 6th century, was ahead of its time and ruled much of the known world. It had people of all color in its arms and made to be one of the people. It was just a fact of life back then. With that said, Jake does an exciting job of bringing one of my favorite gaming characters to life. Even though the game never gave a name to the character he plays the part of Dastan, as you would in the game, fun, fast, with all heart. It even took a call from Bruckheimer to tell him to calm down we have stunt people for that, to which Jake being the consummate performer, wanting to connect the audience with the character. You can’t always do that when you are using a double for those most intense scenes. Tamina played by Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Pirate Radio) has eyes that can melt anyone, man or woman. I don’t care who you are she just has a look of pure devotion when she catches you with her gaze. This helps to bring zeal to the character that allows her to speak when no words are needed, an emotional performance to be commended.  Sir Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, The Love Guru) brings his classic acting to the screen as the Nizam, the Kings brother who has helped raise Dastan, Tus, and Garsiv. The epitome of royalty, Sir Ben truly gets into his role, very stoic in his performance. The biggest surprise and scene stealer is Alfred Molina (The Da Vinvi Code, Spider-Man 2) as Sheik Amar. The antagonist, yet surprise good hearted, low life, self serving, opportunistic, “what’s in it for me”, Persian version of the ‘Tea Party’ character. He keeps the pace of the film rolling with his constant ragging of the Persians and how they tax people and that he is just trying to keep his ‘image’ intact. It is enchanting to watch him each time he appears on screen.

Bringing this to life with Bruckheimer and Newell: Cinematography of John Seale (Poseidon, Spanglish) using every visual that filming in Morocco had to offer. Bringing to life the far-reaching ambiance of the desert to the detailed sets imagined is production designer Wolf Kroeger (Eragon, Equilibrium). Penny Rose (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, King Arthur) pulls out of her carpet bag of tricks the feel and look of 6th century Persia with her amazing element of wardrobe. Setting up the true feel of the game on the screen is George Aguilar (The Departed, Gangs of New York) coordinate some of the intense stunts from the parkour to the swordfights, you sometimes feel your hands on the controller wanting to play the game again. In the interest of the keeping the sites of the game to screen is Tom Wood (Sunshine, Sylvia) and Trevor Wood (The Golden Compass, The Last Legion) handling the visual and special effects respectively. Their combined effort is so stunning, at times I found my eyes wide open and my mouth dropping at the site of the blur between fantasy and reality. My much loved visual being the passing of time and how it envelopes the holder of the dagger.

Are you still worried that the transition of video game to the screen is going to be a flop? Think again. Bruckheimer does not deal in such triviality. He again has brought together an amazing group of top notch creators and actors to drive home that one truly does make their own destiny. I have had the pleasure of living life just as that, making my own destiny. Have I thought of turning back the sands of time and changing what I have done? I would be lying if I said no. However if I did, I would not be the man I am today. Each family member, friend, or person I have met in my life has been part of my life story, part of my destiny. They are all important to me and my story and how I learn to live each next minute. We learn thru life much like Dastan learns that family, whether you are born into or become part of it, is
the strongest bond. Nothing can separate the true bond of a family and anyone who does try to force that bond apart will see the true nature of trust and love that a family has. Choose your own path. Make your own destiny. Follow your dreams. Don’t look back and wonder, ‘what if’, look forward and say I can. Live life to its fullest.

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