Anuj Kumar

PRINCE OF PERSIA – THE SANDS OF TIME

(DT Saket and other theatres in Delhi and elsewhere)

As Bollywood pauses to catch a breath between two biggies, Hollywood has programmed a fantasy out of a video game. As expected, it has the form of a dadi maa's tale but lacks the all-important spirit. That twitch, that wit which we associate with such tales is missing.

Director Mike Newell seems to be targeting a gamer's heart and finds his way through with some elaborate sword fights and wall-climbing in the deserts of Morocco doubling up as the barrens of Persia. No, don't look for reality in ambience, language or characterisation, just have some innocuous fun as Dastan, a street smart brat, is picked up by the benevolent King of Persia and made part of the royalty. Years later, he and his two step brothers are duped into leading the forces into the religious town of Alamut by their ruthless uncle Nizam (Ben Kingsley) because it is apparently hiding weapons of mass destruction. There is a trend to fill fantasies with topical plots but this one is absolutely far-fetched and laughable.

In the ensuing melee, the King, who is against the siege, gets killed and the needle of suspicion points to Dastan. He flees with the two mystifying spoils of the battle – the mesmerising Princess of Alamut and a dagger, which has the potential to take the holder to the past giving him an opportunity to change it the way he likes. So you already know whatever will go wrong could be corrected, ensuring that creases never surface on your forehead and you don't need to shift towards the edge of the seat. Just sit back and enjoy the crunchy action.

The good part is some taut editing and an overwhelming visual appeal ensure that the sketchy script and trite turns never get the better of you as your eyes either shift to the background or the next slam bang.

The film rests on the appeal of Gyllenhaal and he lives up to the expectations. He has flexed out of his serious image to have some fun with this role and it reflects. He is game to break mountains literally! No such luck with Gemma Arterton. Tamima -- the princess who guards the dagger -- brings the required exotic appeal to the theme, but unlike Gyllenhaal she never gives in to the silliness of the premise. Their romantic fling could have been the boiling point of the film but somehow it remains cold in the desert. In a role that lacks depth, the good old Kingsley is effortless in conjuring up the menacing and manipulative look. Alfred Molinas brings some sparse moments of humour as the calculating entrepreneur who invests in ostrich races.

An average entertainer that won't leave any imprint on the sands of time!

DAYBREAKERS

(Wave, Noida, and other theatres)

Vampire stories continue to inspire Hollywood film-makers. After the heart-warming Twilight comes the blood-curdling Daybreakers. Director duo Michael and Peter Spierig have a clear-cut agenda. They attempt to instil fear in the heart of the audience about a grim future soaked in blood and they manage to do it with assured flair.

The Spierig brothers are talking about the times when the world is taken over by vampires and only five per cent of the human population is left. The coldblooded animals in human form move in subways and drive customised cars to stay clear of the sunlight. Blood is sold over the counter and the percentage of blood defines your brew.

Enough ingredients to create a shady atmosphere and the brothers make it look a plausible reality with a liberal use of blue and grey frames. There are moments that make you jump out of the seat and the tone engages you to brood over the import. There are class barriers at play and add to it wily corporates who farm humans so that the “resource” could be exploited methodically, we get a subtext that is chilling. Like we splurge water, vampires splash the vital tissue a little too much resulting in a situation where they need a substitute as soon as possible.

Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) is a hematologist who is heading one such project for a corporate house led by an avaricious boss. Edward is also a vampire but somehow he has retained his humanity and conscience. How he survives is never really answered but one thing is sure: he never sought the carrot of immortality that comes with the bite!

When the sympathetic vampire is tapped by a group of rebellious humans led by Elvis Cormac (Willem Dafoe) and Audrey (Claudia Karvan), Edward sees a way of redemption but it is too late. His younger brother (Michael Dorman) is ready to hunt him down.

Marked by Hawke's subdued yet stylish act, the brothers have mounted the film well and manage to make us willingly suspend disbelief for a substantial portion but when it comes to summing up the proceedings, the director duo lets us down as they fall for an overdose of blood and gore. The brothers plot it on the lines of District 9 but could not sustain the repulsive reality till the end. When adjective masquerades as noun, the sentence loses substance.

Not for everyone!

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