Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time [2010]

Scheherazade would be proud of the Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time. This is a tale that is worthy of the 1001 Arabian Nights; simple, clear, lots of action and sword-craft, a love interest [without being too graphic], and plenty of swashes being buckled. There are no hidden layers of meaning, no subtleties, and no deep moral messages other than the obvious ones; truth will out, loyalty is true strength, and love conquers all. There is sorcery, ancient legend, and a magical device that must be returned to its home or terrible events will overwhelm the world.

The setting is Magical Persia. This is a land of magic and wonders, of genies and ifrits, of demons and angels. It is a world of powerful sorcerers and wise kings, of evil viziers and mighty warriors, of beautiful princesses and rascally brigands. It is the world of Scheherazade and Haroun Al-Rashid, a mythical, fantastical land that has been part of story telling for at least a thousand years and bears as much relationship to the real world as Camelot or Lyonesse or Atlantis.

Prince Dastan [Jake Gyllenhaal] is an orphan adopted into the King’s house as a boy and brought up as a brother to the two Princes of the Blood, Tas [Richard Coyle] and Garsiv [Toby Kebbell]. Their Father, the wise and beloved Emperor Sharaman [Pickup, Ronald], rules the Empire with a stern but just hand. The King’s brother and Vizier, Nizam [Kingsley, Ben], brings news that rebels to the east are being armed by the Holy City of Alamut, an independent realm. It is determined that the three brothers shall lead an army against the City.

Tus, the senior man, shall lead the attack followed by Garsiv. Dastan is told to bring up the rear, but instead launches an independent and successful attack elsewhere, breaking into the City and capturing a mysterious knife that is being taken to the Temple. Princess Tamina [Gemma Arterton] is captured and taken to the Capital, but not before she notices that Dastan has the knife. Tas gives Dastan the captured mantle of the High Priest to give to the Emperor as a gift.

In the Capital, Dastan is hailed as a hero and the hand of Tamina is promised him in marriage. The Emperor Sharaman accepts the mantle of the High Priest but as soon as he puts it on hidden poison does its work. Within moments he is dead in a horrible manner. Pandaemonium erupts and Dastan is accused of murder. He and Tamina escape in the confusion, shortly afterwards finding themselves on the run in the desert. Camping in the dunes that night, Tamina tries to kill Dastan, who draws the knife, accidentally pressing the jewelled pommel with his thumb.

A very strange thing happens; time is reversed and he is able to seize Tamina before she can draw the sword with which she would attack him. She explains that the knife is a powerful magical tool which must be returned to the Temple at all costs or the whole world could be destroyed, and the significance of the subtitle – The Sands of Time – is revealed. Dastan has other plans for the knife, however. The next day Tamina knocks him out and runs off with the knife, but they are captured by bandits and taken to their stronghold.

They escape from the bandits, but are recaptured, in the course of which they reveal the power of the knife. The bandits are awe-struck and agree to help Dastan, who wants to return to the Capital to attend the funeral of his father, the Emperor, thus showing his respect and proving that he was not the killer. Meanwhile the other two Princes are in pursuit and coming close, but Dastan and his party have doubled back to the Capital. Here he seeks the advice of Nizam, the vizier and his adoptive uncle, but he is betrayed and Nizam is revealed as the true villain of the piece.

Dastan, Tamina and their bandit friends flee, pursued by the other Princes and a large company of Imperial troops who want to bring back Dastan alive. Also in pursuit are a band of Hassansin, professional assassins hired by Nizam to destroy Dastan and his party and secure the knife at any cost. We now realise that the matter of the supply of weapons to rebels was but a fabrication put about by Nizam to attack a peaceful and friendly realm, the Holy City of Alamut. His real target was the magic knife, which he intends to use to turn back time so that he can become the Emperor himself.

It transpires that in their youth, when they were Princes of the Blood, Nizam and his older brother Sharaman were hunting gazelle. They were attacked by a lion, which Nizam fought off, thus saving his brother’s life. If he was to turn back time and allow the lion to kill Sharaman, Nizam would become Emperor! He thus desires the magic knife above all else.

Dastan and his people reach the Temple and try to replace the knife in its proper setting, where it will do no harm, but the assassins attack. The knife is taken and given to Nizam, who prepares to perform the ritual that he thinks will turn back time, but will, in fact, cause time itself to collapse, leading to the total destruction of the world. There is much dashing about, with battles and duels between Princes and soldiers, bandits and assassins, and tumult as doom approaches. Time is indeed turned back, but not to the place we expect.

Dastan and Tamina find true love at last, honour and brotherly loyalty shine through, and wickedness is punished, as it must be.

Prince of Persia – The Sands Of Time is a cracker of a movie. It is not one for the thoughtful, and it does not pose questions about the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Having started life as a video game, that is not what it was made for and it does not pretend to be anything else. It is the first truly successful adaptation of a video game to the big screen.

Prince of Persia is pure entertainment, a journey into a wonderful, magical world where all things are possible, where honour and integrity win through, where wickedness gets its just desserts, and the hero and heroine can ride off into the sunset [literally], arms about each other as they sit astride their camel. Great stuff.

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