The Prisoner

January 01, 1970

 (Warner Home Video,
288 minutes)




It’s been over forty years since the original British
television drama the Prisoner launched
viewers into a world of paranoia and political intrigue. Four decades later and
the series has found new life courtesy of AMC in the form of a six episode
remake though it could hardly be considered as such. True the character’s names
and settings are familiar but the plots departure from the original make it
virtually unrecognizable to those accustomed to the cerebral nature of the original.
Perhaps it’s due to its abdication of the source material in favor of a more
sci-fi setting that this new take fails to measure up to the standards set by
its predecessor.


The series opens with a man named 6, having just awoken in
“the Village”, a peaceful little town situated in the heart of a desert and
inhabited by cheerful citizens, unaware of the world that lies beyond.
Convinced that this new reality he’s awakened into is false, 6 launches into a
desperate search for answers as to where he is and how he came to be there. As
he delves deeper into the secrets of the Village, he discovers others who
believe themselves to be displaced.


Digging further beneath the surface reveals that he has a
family who claim to have lived in the Village since they were children though
his memories tend to disagree. Pulling the strings is the enigmatic 2, whose
sole focus is to manipulate 6 into surrendering his will. As the story
progresses, the truth is brought to the forefront though the audience may find
itself just as confused as the Villages’ occupants.    


Unfortunately, this is the biggest drawback to the series.
The countless twists and turns the plot takes does little to add to the
suspense one should feel; rather, chances are that viewers are likely to find
themselves lost trying to follow the convoluted revelations thrown their way.
Truthfully, much of the blame for the show’s erratic nature is in its storytelling
as scenes shift interchangeably between 6 throughout various periods of his
life. For example, at the end of one episode we witness his incarceration in a
mental facility only for the next episode to open with him wondering aimlessly
through the Village. It’s clear what the writer’s were going for, but
ultimately it just adds further confusion to an already perplexing plot.


Another of the show’s faults lie in its pacing. For a six
episode series, there are moments where the plot feels as if it is dragging,
and even moments that feel as if it has come to a complete halt. This is
unforgivable, especially considering its meager episode count.


As confusing as it is, the story can be pieced together if
one pays enough attention, though everyone will most certainly have to come to
their own conclusions at to what the Village really is. Honestly, when the show
isn’t limping along, there are genuinely enthralling moments that capture the
viewer’s interest and threaten to never let go. Watching 6’s turbulent struggle
to unwind the events set into motion is captivating and will have everyone
taking notice. Add on to that its cinematic scope and the Prisoner comes off
feeling more like a six hour epic than it does a series.


In terms of acting, this may have been the best cast program
on television. Ian McKellen, gives his usual outstanding performance as the
sinister 2. Starring alongside him is relative unknown Jim Caviezel whose
portrayal of 6 gives the character depth, making the sense of desperation
palpable, proving he has the acting chops to hang with Sir Ian.


Despite its overly ambitious plot and slow progression,
buried beneath is a truly admirable effort that rewards its viewers and sends
them off with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. It pushes people to think,
which is rare for television today. If given a chance, viewers might just find
themselves lost in the Village. 



Unaired Scenes

Commentaries on 2 key episodes

Beautiful Prison: the World of the Prisoner

A 6 Hour Film Shot in 92 Days: the Diary of the Prisoner

The Prisoner Comic-Con Panel

The Man Behind 2 – Jamie Campbell Bower Interviews Sir Ian





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