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Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia

Based on the video game of the same name, Prince of Persia tells the story of Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhal) -- wrongly accused of killing his adoptive father, the king. With the help of a mystical princess (Gemma Atherton) and a magic dagger that can stop time for whomever holds it, Prince Dastan must fight to keep the dagger from falling into the wrong hands. Also starring Alfred Molina and Ben Kingsley.

The story begins with Dastan as a small boy being caught by the king stealing food in the town square. The king is moved by the boy's courage and adopts him. Years later Dastan and his two brothers (sons of the king by blood) discover a cache of weapons that suggests a nearby holy city is planning to attack Persia.

The brothers mount an attack against the city, and thanks to Dastan are able to infiltrate the city and take it over. They hold the princess (and priestess) of the city hostage and bring her back to Persia as a potential bride for one of the brothers. During the battle Dastan takes possession of a dagger, not realizing that it has the power to stop time for the user. The user can then rewind time and change the outcome. This gives the already highly acrobatic Prince Dastan the power to dodge striking serpents and arrows. Surprisingly, the dagger isn't used very often, maybe four times throughout the entire movie.

Dastan is eventually accused of assassinating the king using a poisoned cloak, and for the rest of the movie he is paired up with the Princess, played by Gemma Atherton (most notably seen in Quantum of Solace). She plays the stereotypical princess character, but adds a nice degree of sass and sarcasm. Together they each try to achieve their own narrow goals -- for Dastan, clearing his name and for the Princess, regaining the dagger (and saving the world in the process).

To leaven the 'save the world' plot Fred Molina appears as the stock 'funny Arab guy' who at first menaces and then supports the Prince and Princess. The humor is surprisingly topical when Molina vamps it up as a sixth century Tea Party activist.

Molina: "We came here to escape the most terrible, horrible monstrosity in all the world.... taxes!"

The real reason to see Prince of Persia is the action, which, in keeping with the original video game, is kinetic and acrobatic. I couldn't be completely sure, but a lot of the action scenes seem to have been done by Gyllenhal himself.

Gyllenhal just barely manages to come across as a convincing action hero -- usually he goes for the 'emo' sort of role, so this is a change for him. He clearly went the distance trying to look the part, he's buffed up. The character of the Prince isn't supposed to be one of a bruiser, so Gyllenhal makes him a bit of a joker instead, which makes it all seem more credible. Even with his scruffy pseudo-beard and bulked out biceps he still seems a little too boyish at times.

Gemma Atherton is beautiful and she keeps her clothes on, which is nice for a change. She wears sexy princess outfits of course, but nothing that is especially over the top, and her dialogue with Gyllenhal is mostly crisp and there appears to be some on-screen chemistry between them. It seems as though the writers made a serious attempt to make her more than just eye-candy.

The biggest surprise in Prince of Persia is the plot, which actually delivers some unexpected twists and turns. The time-warping magic dagger is (sparingly) used to rework the plot more than once, so audiences will actually have to pay attention. Overall, Prince of Persia rates as a brainier-than-average summer popcorn muncher, delivering impressive action, some laughs, but it probably will not require a sequel.

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