Dastan (Gyllenhaal) is the adopted youngest son of Persian King Sharaman (Pickup). With his two brothers (Kebbell and Coyle) and their ambitious uncle (Kingsley) he invades the holy city of Alamut. But things go badly wrong, and Dastan ends up on the run with the local Princess Tamina (Arterton), bickering over a ceremonial dagger that turns out to have time-shifting properties. With the help of a local sheik (Molina), they return to the city and try to thwart a dark conspiracy to take over the kingdom.
Tonally, the film feels like Aladdin meets Indiana Jones, with echoes of Lawrence of Arabia in the way Newell beautifully captures the setting using sweeping landscapes, intricate sets and impressive effects. The actors add the attitude with dialog and situations that are blatantly anachronistic; but it's such a freewheeling adventure that we can't take it seriously on any level.
Which is a problem when you notice how many people are brutally killed along the way.
But never mind, this is a Disney movie, and Newell never dwells on the nastiness. Unfortunately, he has to spend rather a lot of the running time on plot exposition and explanations, which cuts into the much more interesting banter between Dastan and Tamina. Gyllenhaal and Arterton have terrific chemistry, and both create feisty, action-packed heroes we can really root for.
They're so good that they even manage to generate some strong emotion and suspense even in rather corny situations.
That said, there's not much to this film besides a cursory moral about trusting your heart. This is Bruckheimer's Pirates of the Caribbean style of filmmaking, with a constant flow of comical dialog and wacky characters punctuated every now and then by elaborate action set pieces. Newell handles the character-based scenes very nicely, but struggles to bring much coherence to the action. Not that it matters. If you're looking for a bit of mindless escapism, this certainly does the trick.
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Friday 28th May 2010
Box Office USA: $90.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $335.2M
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictures
Production compaines: Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 77 Rotten: 139
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Mike Newell
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal as Prince Dastan, Gemma Arterton as Tamina, Ben Kingsley as Nizam, Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar, Steve Toussaint as Seso, Toby Kebbell as Garsiv, Richard Coyle as Tus, Ronald Pickup as King Sharaman, Reece Ritchie as Bis, Gísli Örn Garðarsson as Hassansin Leader, Claudio Pacifico as Hassansin Porcupine, Thomas DuPont as Hassansin Whip Man
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