Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Based on a video game [which I was not aware of that fact when the movie first came out, since I don’t play video games], it was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who had produced the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (up next). Jake Gyllenhaal (probably most famous for Brokeback Mountain, and due to be in Spider-Man: Far From Home) leads as Prince Dastan. Gemma Arterton (the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace) is Princess Tamina. Ben Kingsley (quintessential British villain) is Nizam, and Alfred Molina (who voices Viggo, an antagonist in Dragons: Race to the Edge [I knew his voice sounded familiar!]) is Sheik Amar.
The film opens with a rising sun, script fading in and out, “It is said some lives are linked across time. Connected by an ancient calling hat echoes through the ages. Destiny.” The prologue is narrated, giving a brief background on the might of the Persian empire, it had once stretched from China to the Mediterranean. [Yes, this movie did make me interested in the Persian empire for a little bit] The empire was fierce in battle, wise in victory; where they conquered, order followed, ruled by the principals of loyalty and brotherhood. King Sharaman, older brother to Nizam, already had two sons, Tus and Garsiv. But Fate led him to a third son, who was not royal in blood and thus had no eye on the throne, to complete his family. One day in the market, a man went after a young child for some slight. The boy was rescued by another who then led the guards on a merry chase (this is why he reminds me of Aladdin a bit), demonstrating early parkour. He is finally caught and about to have his hand cut off when the king puts a stop to it. Young Dastan is adopted by the king.
Fifteen years later, the Persian army is advancing to Alamut, a holy city, supposedly guilty of treachery; selling weapons to Persia’s enemies. Tus, as Crown Prince is to make the final decision regarding an invasion. Garsiv is headstrong and eager for any fight. Dastan, once he’s pulled away from wrestling, advocates caution since it is a holy city. Nizam urges that something must be done. Tus agrees to let Garsiv’s cavalry lead. Dastan sneaks his band of men to the side gate. Lots of cool action later, and the gate is open, decreasing the number of lives that would have been lost from a full frontal assault.
In the city, Princess Tamina sends her priests and advisors away, ordering tunnels to be demolished and sending one guard out with a sacred object. Dastan ends up battling the guard and picks up the object, a dagger. Tus wishes to cement the Persian’s victory with a marriage to Tamina. At first, she refuses, but then she catches sight of the dagger on Dastan, and agrees, only if her people will be treated with mercy.
King Sharaman is displeased at the attack of the holy city and comes to Alamut. Tus passes off a prayer robe for Dastan to present their father as a gift. Dastan owes Tus a gift for taking first blood, but Nizam argues that the city and princess are Tus’s gift. Dastan also has to inform the king of Tus’s wish to marry Tamina. Sharaman quietly advises his youngest son on how to balance his brothers; the bond between brothers is the sword that defends their empire. A good man would have done as Dastan did, minimize losses. But a great man would have prevented the attack that he knew was wrong. Upon seeing Tamina, who’s got some spitfire and refuses to be kowtowed by barbaric Persians, Sharaman declares that Tus has enough wives; Dastan, the Lion of Persia, may take less risks if he had someone waiting for him. Tamina will be his first wife. Dastan wants a drink. But the prayer robe that Dastan presented his father with starts smoking. Garsiv and other members are quick to shout that Dastan is a murderer. Dastan’s friend, Bis (the first young boy from the market), tries to get Dastan out, but he’s cut down. Tamina takes charge next.
The couple escapes; Dastan theorizes that Tus conspired to kill the king, since he was the one to give Dastan the robe. Tamina attempts to seduce Dastan and he ends up pushing the jewel on the hilt of the dagger…and goes back in time a few moments, reliving the fight. Tamina is desperate to get the dagger back and does not want Dastan misusing it. Dastan deduces that the dagger was the true reason for the invasion of Alamut. But he will need help. They will need to go to Avarat, for his father’s funeral, and find a way to talk to Nizam. Their best chance of evading Garsiv and the army is through the Valley of the Slaves. Tamina attempts to con Dastan out of the dagger again, and does succeed in knocking him out at one point. He wakes up to Shiek Amar and a band of thieves, including an expert dagger-thrower from Sudan. Dastan works out a deal, they regain Tamina (and the dagger) and the stories about the Valley of the Slaves turn out to be a cover for…ostrich races; a way to hide taxes from the Persian Empire. Amar tries to capture Dastan in order to claim Tus’s reward, so the couple have to make a run for it again.
They make it to Avarat eventually, their attitudes towards each other softening a tiny bit along the way. But when Dastan speaks to his uncle, he notices that Nizam’s hands are burnt, like Sharaman was from the robe. He recalls his father’s favorite story, how Nizam saved Sharaman from a lion years ago. Dastan doesn’t have the dagger, Tamina must have taken it. Dastan realizes that Nizam is the one at fault and tries to escape. Except he runs into Garsiv. The brothers fight, Garsiv refusing to listen to Dastan. The younger brother manages to get away. Now he must get back to Alamut; there is more sand there, and to warn Tus.
Tamina finally tells Dastan the full story of the dagger; the gods were angered by mankind and sent a sandstorm to wipe out the world (connotations of the flood story shared by many ancient cultures), but a young girl pled for humanity. They made her guardian of the Sands of Time and the dagger. All priestesses subsequently have been guardian of the secret. Tamina wishes to return the dagger where it will be safe, and sacrificing her life, as is her duty. Nizam has a trick up his sleeve, a group of deadly Hasassins (early band of assassins, does seem based in some historical fact, but not my area of expertise). He sends them after Dastan and Tamina.
All groups (for Garsiv has continued his pursuit of Dastan) converge at the temple in the mountains. Garsiv is kill by a Hassassin and Tamina is knocked out and the dagger is taken. Dastan, Tamina, and their few allies race back to Alamut. Nizam is pleased to have possession of the dagger and has it guarded by a Hassassin. Amar’s knife throwing friend, Seso, goes against the Hassassin. The effort kills him, but he manages to get the dagger to Dastan. he sneaks in to see Tus, having to stab himself to prove his story to his older brother. Tus experiences the power of the dagger himself, but before he can truly help his brother, Nizam slits his throat (the movie is rated PG-13). Dastan escapes again and now they have to head to the sandglass under the city.
In the commotion, Dastan dispatches the leader of the Hassassins, and he and Tamina finally share a kiss. Nizam’s plan is to let sand flow through the dagger long enough to change his actions saving Sharaman from the lion. But if he does that, the sands will overtake the world again. Dastan fights Nizam for the dagger, Nizam pushes Tamina away. Dastan grabs her, but she knows that he can’t regain the dagger if he’s holding on to her, so she slips away. Dastan ultimately manages to regain control of the dagger; he’s swept away to the past…right after the invasion of Alamut. He stops the men before they can enter the palace, revealing Nizam’s treachery. Nizam tries to pass the whole thing off, claiming Dastan is crazy, but he ends up pulling a sword on his nephew. The first is knocked away, but when Nizam goes to stab Dastan in the back, Garsiv and Tus act to defend their brother.
Tus apologizes to Tamina, but still feels like a marriage alliance would be best for both kingdoms, and suggests Dastan as her husband. He is both conqueror and savior. Dastan returns the dagger to Tamina (only he remembers the alternate timeline) and the film closes with a setting sun and the same script.
I do like this movie, but mainly for the action. It is packed with action and the parkour elements are an exciting addition. Dastan is a good lead, we’re invested in his outcome. Tamina, while she has spunk and is certainly willing to fight for what she wants, is often the damsel in distress. Nizam is a wonderful villian, playing the long game, until his starts his monologuing at the end, “Enjoy the gutter, Dastan, that’s where you’ll stay in my time!” I like the camaraderie between the brothers at the start and the end of the movie, but they seemed too quick to believe the worst in Dastan at a time when he needed them most.
What really helps me enjoy the story are the fanfictions that flesh out the family dynamics – that’s what fanfiction is for, after all!
Two Steps Forward, All the Way Back by Thoughts of a Shadow; explores the aftermath of the movie and Dastan’s relationship with his brothers
Heart of Electrum by Jenn-Mel; explores how Dastan originally fit into the dynamics of the palace
Remains also by Jenn-Mel; another tag to the movie and how Dastan deals with everything
Beyond Broken by Crittle247; another tag delving into how Dastan handles the aftermath of his adventure
So, good action movie, a fun watch, but if you like some drama, check out the fanfics! As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments!
Up Next: Pirates of the Caribbean