Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is an Arabian Night-ly video game of computerized desertscapes, an all-over rosy glow, a magic dagger than can turn back time, a pretentious and presumptuous plot parallel to the present-day search for nonexistent WMDs in Iraq, and a British-accented Jake Gyllenhaal to fit in with Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, and Gemma Arterton, not to mention director Mike Newell. The major struggle, overpowering that for the prized dagger, is the viewer’s versus the sandman.
The City of Your Final Destination, concerning the efforts of an Arab-American academic to secure the co-operation of the family for a biography of a suicided one-book author in Uruguay, is a Jamesian literary tale without the concentration, the ardor, the resonance. A James Ivory film post-Ismail Merchant (d. 2005), but still with Ruth Prawer Jhabvala to do the screenplay and Anthony Hopkins to anchor the able cast (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Laura Linney, Omar Metwally, Norma Aleandro), it is wholly adult, articulate, cultured, and all that, yet somehow becalmed and enervated.
Harry Brown, directed by Daniel Barber, naturally calls to mind Gran Torino, if only for its proximity in time. But the vigilante-revenge plot brings it closer to a geriatric Death Wish, with a widowed pensioner in a London slum arming himself against Clockwork Orange ultra-violent youth and drawing on his training in the Royal Marines to avenge the murder of his chess mate. Michael Caine, to be sure, is no Clint Eastwood, nor was he ever a Charles Bronson, but he does set off a few faint echoes from the Harry Palmer spy films, Get Carter, The Destructors, et al. The gray and gritty surface and the elevated social consciousness do not diminish the implausibility.
And which of these four will we still be watching in eighty-four years? ■