TV on DVD: The Prisoner (2009)

Now Available to Own

Aside from some of the bare bones similarities in setting and character, this 2009 reinterpretation of the '60s television oddity The Prisoner has less in common with its original source and instead feels like it's been built from spare plot points, motifs, characters, and art direction left over from Planet of the Apes, a random effort by Joss Whedon, Lost, Wizard of Oz, any given conspiracy theory BBC miniseries and Alice in Wonderland.

In other words, The Prisoner suffers from an intense identity crisis, which is multiplied by six episodes or “personalities” if you will. Essentially, you get the feeling that the screenwriter used each episode as an opportunity to test out a completely new modus operandi in remaking Patrick McGoohan's classic of nonconformity but this time around, as opposed to introducing us to a new number 2 character with every installment, screenwriting pick-up sticks was played by grabbing onto a little melodrama here, science fiction there, and conspiracy theory du jour.

For the uninitiated, The Prisoner finds an employee of a secretive organization resigning out of anger, only to discover that you don't just turn in a letter and clear your desk. Instead of filing for unemployment and surfing the couch, our lead winds up smack dab in the middle of an eerie, sand-filled dessert community known as The Village, where-- much like Pleasantville-- no one is familiar with the fact that there's anywhere outside of the area to go and instead of names, each individual is assigned a number.

Since the name of the game is conformity and particularly group-think, the most important individual is number 2 as to be called number 1, reasons this series' 2 (Ian McKellen) would be to go against the spirit of The Village.

With no idea how he arrived in the community nor how to escape as perilous desert holes (like black holes?) and a white large circular menacing ball threaten residents at every turn, our main character from New York City played by Jim Caviezel finds himself stranded in the desert complete with the name of 6.

Through a fittingly decided six episodes, 6 fights against his life in the fascist society by constantly search for ways out, as he tries to learn more from a beguiling stranger (Hayley Atwell) who has drawn a picture of New York City and may have known him before and discover the truth about the manipulative 2 who keeps his bed-ridden wife constantly drugged like a white suit clad creepy new character on Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane.

And while 2009's Prisoner begins strongly-- much like the way The New York Times crossword puzzle works, it eventually goes from understandable and entertaining to mindbogglingly crazy making. Yet unlike the puzzles clear resolution, about midway through Prisoner you realize that even if the screenwriter provides an actual resolution, it just doesn't compel us the way that McGoohan's series did as something original and fresh. No, instead this one mostly picks and chooses from various sources to create a bewildering, unsatisfying tapestry we don't care to look at anywhere near six hours, despite the attractiveness of its leading man.

Just plain nonsensical without the level of depth of the original back when fighting conventions and going against every rule in the storytelling book was a revolutionary act, this series is not only 40 years out of fashion-- even with the new modern conspiracy theory slant-- but it doesn't even warrant the investment of 1/6 of the total 6 episode running time.

Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com

Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

FTC Disclosure:
Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.