Following a long line of television remakes, “The Prisoner” is a miniseries based on the 1960’s series of the same name starring Patrick McGoohan. An concoction of mystery, science-fiction, human struggle and self-defining statements, “The Prisoner” tries a little too hard to lure in the audience with flashy editing and ends up wandering at times, but the core idea and mysteries within are enough to hold the attention throughout a good portion of the running time.
Before even beginning the series, you can‘t help but wondering who the prisoner is. The miniseries opens with Michael (Jim Caviezel) waking up in the middle of the desert, unaware of where he is or how he got there. After wandering through the desert, he finally comes across a place known as The Village. The Village is more mysterious than waking up in the desert; everyone there doesn’t seem to know of any existence beyond what they know in The Village and they’re initially no help to Michael, who’s clearly shaken by what has happened to him. Michael quickly discovers that everyone in The Village goes only by numbers, not by names - he is now 6.
As Michael/6 meets 2 (Ian McKellen), the man who watches over The Village, he quickly learns that he’s expected to stay in The Village and to not question any life other than what he sees. However, Michael/6 keeps having flashes of memories from his other life - a life he lived in New York City. Before being taken to The Village, Michael worked for a mysterious corporation that watched people. In flashes, we see glimpses of his work and his encounters with a young woman named Lucy (Hayley Atwell), who happens to be in The Village as well. These flashes offer pieces that start to connect the dots Michael/6 follows on his journey of discovering why he’s in The Village and how he can find his way back home. Along the way, Michael encounters people he can put his trust in while trying to escape The Village, despite 2’s constant reassurance that he is free.
The idea of being free is a huge part of the story, and it’s important to remember as you watch Michael/6 struggle with the idea of working and living under the constant observation of 2. The question of realty here keeps the story engaging, as you wonder if The Village is real, or if even Michaels’ flashes are based in realty. The idea is strong enough to make for a mostly interesting and entertaining sci-fi experience, although there are moments during the second half of the series that do drag or feel a little aimless.
Thankfully the acting is engaging with McKellen standing out as 2, and Hayley Atwell giving an wonderful performance as Lucy. Additionally, “The Prisoner” definitely takes some of the feel of the sixties and sprinkles it throughout the series with certain lighting effects, edits and visuals. Overall, while not without some flaws, this is a fine take on the tale.
VIDEO: Warner Brothers presents the series in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Image quality is respectable; while sharpness and detail are not overly remarkable, the picture does still seem consistently crisp and detailed. A few minimal instances of edge enhancement are seen, but the picture otherwise looked clean. Colors looked well-saturated and spot-on, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The show's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation sounded just fine, with crisp, clear dialogue and score. Surrounds are used at times to deliver minor sound effects, ambience and other elements, but the majority of the audio is spread across the front soundstage.
EXTRAS:Commentary with Producer Trevor Hopkins and Editor Yan Miles for “The Arrival” and “Checkmate”. Both commentaries offer interesting facts and insight regarding the protection. The commentary on “Checkmate” offers more thoughts regarding the depth of the series.
Each episode includes an unaired scene. The extra scenes may be enjoyable for fans of the series and actors. Several unaired scenes were interesting while others felt more like filler that, while entertaining, weren’t necessary for the plot.
“A 6-hour film shot in 92 days: The Diary of The Prisoner” - an interesting look at the quick pace in which the miniseries was shot. Interviews talk about working in the desert locations, the size of the production for a television series and the effects used, costumes, the script and more. A lot is fit into this featurette, which moves at a decent pace and offers a lot of information. Worth a look.
“Beautiful Prison: The World of the Prisoner” - Interviews with those involved explore what they think “The Prisoner” is about. They offer thoughts of what The Village really is, and insight into their characters. The feature also takes a look at the reason behind certain clothing choices and set and prop designs.
“The Man Behind ‘2’” has Jamie Campbell Bower interviewing Sir Ian McKellen. This is actually one of the more entertaining features as it has lots of humorous, lighthearted moments as well as some enjoyable facts. While short, it’s worth a look.
Also included on the DVD is “The Prisoner Comic-Con Panel”. This is footage from Comic-Con discussing the miniseries.
Final Thoughts: While the script doesn't always meet the potential of the core idea and some stretches drag, the performances and questions that come from the core story help carry “The Prisoner” forward reasonably well.