Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

If you like your summer movies with a heaping helping of fight scenes, a cool leading man, a wise-cracking sidekick, intrigue, bad guys, and some half-way decent special effects, you could do a lot worse than Prince of Persia.

In fact, you’ll be reminded more than once of Raiders of the Lost Ark. And The Mummy.

Directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), Prince of Persia is a pretty darn fun swashbuckler, with some pretty slick fight choreography, and, yes, a pretty leading lady. What else would you expect in a Jerry Bruckheimer-produced mega-epic?

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Dastan, a street rat who’s adopted by the King of the Persian Empire. Over the course of ten years he becomes one of the family, even riding alongside his two brothers as they go into battle (which happens often, apparently).

One bright day they get tricked into attacking the holy city of Alamut, the home of Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and also home of the coolest dagger this side of Macbeth. Press the red button on the hilt, and poof! you turn back time a couple seconds. During the siege, Dastan gets the dagger (not knowing its power), but when he’s later falsely blamed for his father’s death, he has to flee. And since he has the dagger, the Princess helps him escape, so she can get the dagger back.

Along the way Dastan learns the dagger’s power, and the cat and mouse game with the feisty princess begins (along with Dastan’s quest to clear his name).

Gyllenhaal more than proves his chops as an action flick leading man. No real acting is required, but his cool delivery and his (or his stuntman’s) parkour skills make him fun to watch. Arterton, given much more to work with than in the Clash of the Titans remake, is a perfect foil, and the two actors play very well off each other. Stealing the show, however, is Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar, a gold-toothed ostrich racer who is extremely loyal… to whoever has the most money.

The screenplay crams a lot of information (maybe a little too much) into just under two hours, but there’s also enough light-hearted fun to keep you entertained. (Hey, the writers had to do something to expand on a video game franchise that began as a glorified version of Pitfall.)

Prince of Persia won’t be as fondly remembered as Raiders of the Lost Ark (or The Mummy, for that matter), but it will be remembered nonetheless (especially since 3 or 4 sequels are, no doubt, already in the works). The visuals are pretty nifty, there’s no shortage of highly interesting characters, and the sweeping panoramas of the Persian Empire are fairly mind-blowing.

But the best part? The filmmakers showed incredible restraint by not converting it into 3D. That, alone, makes it highly worthy of your time (and money).

3.5/5 stars