War is brewing in the ancient Kingdom of Persia. King Sharaman's (Ronald Pickup) sons, including the adopted Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal), are advised to invade the sacred city of Alamut by their uncle, Nizam (Ben Kingsley), as he suggests it has sold weapons to their enemies. Reluctant to attack, Dastan nonetheless enters the city and captures Alamut's Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and the magical dagger in her care.
When the King is killed by a poisoned cape, however, Dastan is blamed and flees with Tamina and the dagger. At each other's throats, the pair manage to dodge ostrich-racing crook Sheik Amar (Alfred Molina), who wants to collect the ransom on their heads. Turning to Nizam for help, Dastan realises that it is, in fact, the King's brother who was behind the assassination.
As Tamina reveals that the dagger can be used with a special sandglass to travel back in time, Dastan also learns that the process would create a sandstorm that could wipe Persia off the map. Setting out to stop Nizam before it is too late, Dastan will have to win his brothers' trust and face countless perils if he is to save the kingdom.
Being the best video game-to-movie adaptation ever isn't quite the accolade it should be considering the genre's lacklustre pedigree, but there's no denying that Prince of Persia has some moves. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, who pulled off a similar trick turning a theme park ride into the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, there's virtually no depth to this eye-popping magic carpet ride. That said, it's lack of weight - unless you're looking to read a War on Terror metaphor into the candyfloss plot - is never a barrier to enjoying its many delights.
Packed with eye candy, from the sumptuous CGI cityscapes to Gyllenhaal's gym-bulked body, and cast with some extremely fine British supporting players, including Toby Kebbell and Richard Coyle, Prince of Persia is pure popcorn entertainment. In his first action movie lead, Gyllenhaal is extremely impressive, deftly handling the epic action sequences while delivering a vowelperfect English accent.
Helmed by the versatile director behind Four Weddings and A Funeral, Donnie Brasco and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time might be as shallow as a Sahara puddle, but its mirage-like visuals never fail to captivate.