When word that the nearby city of Alamut is forging weapons that might jeopardize the peace and stability of the empire, King Sharaman orders Daston and his brothers to launch a preemptive attack. Easily breaching the walls, the invaders find nothing threatening inside; the only item of significance being a curious dagger, a spoil that goes to Daston, the victor.
At the celebration, the King is poisoned by a robe presented to him by Daston forcing the once-favored son into exile. There he joins forces with Alamut’s deposed princess to clear his name. The Princess, though, is only interested in reclaiming the dagger, a mystical blade that can reverse time. Daston’s uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), is interested in it as well. With it, Nizam can go back to the moment when he and Sharaman were boys and an act of unselfish courage cost him the throne.
Prince of Persia is based on the popular video game series and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer whose films have grossed more than $11 billion (yes, “billion”) and include blockbusters like Pearl Harbor and the National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises. This one’s entertaining and satisfying though remarkably “unspectacular” – special effects are limited to spider-like wall climbing and elaborate minaret leaps that suggest ancient Persia and the moon have similar gravitational pulls.
Thankfully, CGI is just plays a supporting role. The real stars are Kingsley, who makes a wonderful villain, and Gyllenhaal, who is cast as something of a villain himself: a Swede (gasp!) portraying a Persian. [George Lucas drew similar complaints when he cast a London actor, rather than a native Wookiee, to play Chewbacca. People: that’s why it’s called acting!]
At times I found the story unnecessarily partisan, almost to the point of wincing. Alamut is a “peaceful” city, but, according to a hired spy, they are manufacturing high-quality metal for an imminent attack. After the occupation, surprise, the search turns-up no forges, only the bromide, “you have to have more than 'indications' to occupy a holy city.” For comic relief (or to be “Fair and Balanced”) the wonderful Alfred Molina plays Amar, an anti-tax ranting ostrich racer who complains that small businesses have to pay for ridiculous government programs like, I suppose, rug manufacturer bailouts and rope bridges to nowhere.
Ahh, but if you look too deep you’ll miss all the fun. This one, at its core, is precisely what a summer film ought to be: an escapist adventure.
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