Is Jerry Bruckheimer's 'Prince of Persia' really an anti-Iraq war movie?
Everybody is entitled to see what hidden meanings they want to see in Hollywood movies. A lot of observers believed that "The Chronicles of Narnia" was really an allegory about Christian faith. It was pretty obvious right from the start that Robert Altman's "MASH," although set during the Korean War, was actually about Vietnam, just as it was pretty obvious, at least in retrospect, that the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was a response to the paranoia sparked by Communism and the Red Scare.
So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Govindi Murty, who helps run the conservative Libertas Film Magazine website, has penned an in-depth analysis of "Prince of Persia," which was just released on DVD, contending that the film is a not so thinly veiled anti-Iraq war movie. According to her post, "In a film that generally dwells only on surfaces, the only delving below the surface that goes on in this film is when the film's leads, ludicrous stand-ins for George Bush and Dick Cheney, go digging underneath the Persian sands to find hidden weapons to justify their attack on an innocent holy city."
Thankfully, Murty's not actually claiming that hapless Jake Gyllenhaal is George Bush. In her formulation, the stand-in for Bush is Richard Coyle, who plays Crown Prince Tus in the film. By Murty's way of thinking, when the Persian commanders are debating with their uncle, Nizam, about whether to attack the holy city of Alamut, we should be imagining that they're thinking about Iraq, since Nizam has captured a spy leaving Alamut who is armed with a cache of weapons, weapons that appear to have been made in Alamut and are being taken to enemies of Persia.
Murty offers up dialogue excerpts from the film that she sees as having obvious Iraq war parallels. One example, in her words:
The King of Persia arrives in the city and chastises the princes for launching the attack: “You’ve got to have more indication to attack a holy city … How will this sit with our allies?” Crown Prince Tus replies: “I will search for the weapons myself … I will not rest until I find proof of Alamut’s treachery.” Again, the Crown Prince here is the George Bush stand-in, ‘duped’ by faulty intelligence into attacking an innocent city (except in real life, Saddam’s Iraq was not an innocent city of white marble -– and Hussein was hardly a beautiful princess).
I know Murty and am usually impressed by her smart analysis of movies, new and old. Later in her essay she makes a great point about the singular absence of any major female characters in "Persia," noting how ironic it is that even though Iran -- modern-day Persia -- is considered to be one of the most repressive societies on Earth for women, that "the nation's major filmmakers are still able to work more women characters into their films than Hollywood can."
But her Iraq war parallels seem ridiculously far-fetched, almost as far-fetched as her contention that it is typical of Hollywood that "the only thing the ["Persia"] filmmakers really seem to care about ... is politics." That's what conservatives always get wrong about Hollywood. There are tons of liberals in showbiz, but when it comes to big-budget studio films, all those liberals check their politics at the door. They're trying to sell movie tickets, not make converts.
This is especially true of Jerry Bruckheimer, who produced "Prince of Persia" and is a staunch conservative, having made $44,400 in political contributions in 2008, all to Republican candidates. Bruckheimer was a loyal Bush supporter when Bush was president, so why would Bruckheimer possibly want to make a movie that mocked the war that Bush staked his reputation on? It's a question that goes unanswered in Murty's screed, perhaps because it's one of those inconvenient facts that get in the way of her belief that liberals are promoting their agenda through Hollywood movies. I've seen Jerry Bruckheimer in action long enough to know that he pays far too close attention to the construction of his films to allow anyone to slip a lefty message through the cracks. When it comes to his movies, Bruckheimer's only politics are the politics of the bottom line.
Photo: Thomas DuPont, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal in a scene from the film "Prince of Persia." Credit: Andrew Cooper / Disney Enterprises