Movie Review: ‘Prince of Persia’

May 20, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015
Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in the big budget start to the summer silly season, Prince of Persia. (Walt Disney)
Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton in the big budget start to the summer silly season, Prince of Persia. (Walt Disney)

In an attempt to launch a franchise as successful as Pirates of the Caribbean, uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer has mined the pixelated world of 1989’s repetitive (that’ll be word of the day with this review), yet charming platformer, Prince of Persia.

Throw in a gym subscription for the newly buffed Jake Gyllenhaal, a similar deal at the tanning salon for Gemma Arterton, and in Mike Newell a director that knows how to handle large-scale blockbusters burdened with expectation, and we have a definitive start to the summer silly season.

Set in medieval Persia, this is the story of Dastan (Gyllenhaal), a prince born out of bloodline and raised as one of the king’s own sons. But when he is framed during a thinly veiled WMD themed attack on a peaceful kingdom (oooh topical!), he’s cast asunder. It’s here that our building hopping hero teams up with reluctant royal, Princess Tamina (Arterton), in a race across the desert in order to save the kingdom using the Maguffin of a magical dagger that turns back time. Told you it was silly season.

The source similarities are inevitable, so let’s get them out of the way: Prince of Persia is very much like watching the evolution of a computer game. As sequence after sequence loosely hangs together you fully expect the fades to black to be accompanied by “Level 1-1”. It’s this structure that leads to the highly repetitive nature of the narrative.

That said, some of the most thrilling aspects are manifested in the parkour inspired roof leaping and swash buckling that is clearly derived from the game. It’s refreshingly genuine stunt assisted action too, rather than the CGI splurge that threatens the overblown finale.

In amongst the kid friendly action that elicits memories of the first Mummy film (thankfully not the lamentable sequels) are some surprisingly effective performances from our lead couple.

Gyllenhaal employs a thoroughly convincing English accent on his way to becoming an indisputable action hero. Fully aware of the ludicrousness of it all, he is clearly having fun playing dress-up.
Equally effective is the stunning Arterton, managing to err just the right side of petulant princess while also holding her own in the action stakes. They make a highly amusing bickering couple in the Douglas/Turner mould.

Supporting turns are also strong, with the extremely funny Alfred Molina and the pantomime posturing of Sir Ben Kingsley both registering. They respectively chew up the screen with the ridiculous lines they are asked to mutter, a task that the unfortunate Toby Kebbell (Rocknrolla) cannot match, blending into the background as Dastan’s brother.

Gyllenhaal and Arterton do enough to ensure this prince should get a second term on the throne. There are more thrills and spills than your average buster of blocks, but nothing you’ll remember once the Game Over screen appears.