WEIRDLAND: Gyllenhaal gets the last laugh in Prince of Persia

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Gyllenhaal gets the last laugh in Prince of Persia

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) - 'The New Yorker' Artwork

"Gyllenhaal gets the last laugh in Prince of Persia: He’s having a great time, he knows he looks awesome and he gets to ride horses. Plus, in the end his character gets the girl, a stunner of a princess named Tamina (though I immediately forgot her name and could henceforth think of her only as Princess Hummina Hummina). If you think you’re above Prince of Persia — and until I saw it, I certainly did — then it’s time to come off your not-so-high horse.
Gyllenhaal’s character is Dastan — which some of the actors pronounce “Desitin”, conjuring some unusual imagery for an action hero, but never mind — and he’s not really a prince. As an orphan boy, he was rescued from the streets by the then-king of Persia, Sharaman (played by the British actor Ronald Pickup), who was impressed by the kid’s courage and pluck. King Sharaman raises Dastan as his own, along with his two sons (played by Richard Coyle and Toby Kebbel, also British actors). Meanwhile, Sharaman’s brother, Nizam (Ben Kingsley, yet another British actor, in case you don’t see the pattern emerging here), lurks ominously at the sidelines, wearing lots of eyeliner. A plot of deceit and intrigue unfolds, all stemming from Sharaman’s invasion of a peaceful nearby country: The princess of that country, the aforementioned Tamina, is played by Gemma Arterton (a British actress recently seen in another princessy role in Clash of the Titans). When she and Dastan meet, it is, of course, love at first sight, despite the fact that he and his brothers have just bullied their way into her poor, beleaguered country.

"The story, as you can surmise, is pure hokum. But what hokum!"
Prince of Persia has lots of action, and for the most part Newell handles it deftly. While there’s clearly some CGI afoot, he also showcases honest-to-God stuntwork — characters leap from one rooftop to another, or swing, Douglas Fairbanks-style, from lengths of rope. (There’s also an ostrich race presided over by a cackling Alfred Molina, who shows up for some comic relief.) Even Newell’s use of a mostly British cast is an affectionate nod to the days when classically trained (or just plain good) actors — James Mason, Alec Guinness, Christopher Plummer — would regularly show up in historical epics. I’m afraid people will giggle when they first hear Gyllenhaal’s affected English accent. Part of what makes Prince of Persia fun, and even sometimes affecting, is that the actors deliver even the hokiest lines here as if they were Shakespeare. “This is a matter for the gods, not man!” Tamina declares at a crucial moment and boy, you’d better believe it. The movie’s plot (the script is by Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro and Carlo Bernard, from a story by Jordan Mechner) becomes a little muddy in the second half; it’s as if the writers came up with some really cool doo-dads at the beginning — among them a mystical dagger with a jeweled button on the hilt, its powers so complicated it ought to come with a user’s manual — and then weren’t quite sure what to do with them.But Newell, with the help of cinematographer John Seale (The English Patient) and production designer Wolf Kroeger, certainly gives us plenty to look at. The movie opens with an old-timey map, rendered in a faded orangey tones, just so we’ll have absolutely no doubts about where this ancient Persia place was actually located. Too many filmmakers, striving for so-called historical accuracy, go for the mud-brown look. (Nothing says historical accuracy like mud.) Seale’s version of historical accuracy is, thank God, the fairy-tale kind. Everything in Prince of Persia looks luxe and burnished. A set of special wooden doors are so intricately carved they resemble metal filigree. Even simple clay houses are bathed in a golden glow. Seale scatters similar fairy-dust light around the actors: When Tamina and Dastan first lay eyes on each other, the molecules of air between them seem to shimmer and melt away before our very eyes.
Then there are the obvious physical charms of the actors. Arterton isn’t just a blandly pretty face. There’s something bold and sensuous about her, particularly in these costumes (designed by Penny Rose). In fact this, and not Sex and the City 2, is the movie for clothes lovers this weekend. Arterton’s Tamina is decked out in silky harem pants, jeweled headdresses and mini brocade vests that highlight her decolicious decolletage, outfits that are completely appropriate for the woman, the climate and the fantasy-historic setting, as opposed to just being a fashionista mish-mash. Prince of Persia may not be perfect, but this is at least filmmaking with a sense of grandeur. In a moviegoing climate where so many people — out of necessity or preference — end up watching movies at home on DVD, Prince of Persia begs for special consideration. It deserves to be seen on a hot Saturday afternoon in a theater (preferably an air-conditioned one) peopled with other people, the way many of us used to see movies as kids". Source:

"Dagger Discovered" clip from "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time"

Jake Gyllenhaal in Mini (Russia) magazine.

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