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The Prisoner (Miniseries)
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Enter the mysterious world of The Prisoner. Nobody resigns from Summakor. Once he had a name, a job with the mysterious spy-ops outfit Summakor and a life in New York. Now he has a number. He's called 6, and everything has changed since he quit the many-tentacled agency. Suddenly he lives in The Village, a too-perfect paradise wretched with conformity. A society where all names are numbers. Where secret eyes watch over hollow bliss. Where dissent is rare and whispered. Where 6 knows he has one option: escape. Jim Caviezel portrays disoriented, determined 6 and Ian McKellen plays the serenely cunning Village overseer called 2 in a brilliantly re-imagined, six-episode sci-fi riff on the Patrick McGoohan series of the 1960s. Are 6's experiences real? Happenings of a parallel universe? Imaginings of his own walled-in mind? Enter The Village…]]>
"Assimilate or die." No, it's not high school, it's the Village, a seemingly postcard-perfect community where everybody knows your number. The newest arrival in the Village has no idea how he got there. He only knows that he wants out. Only there is no out. With only flickering flashes of his former life in New York ("There is no New York," he is ominously informed), he is determined to escape. The very idea of a Prisoner remake may be sacrilege to those still enthralled by the ever-elusive what's-it-all-about 1969 cult classic, but the nightmarish Kafka-esque conflict at the core of this "reinterpretation" still packs a paranoid punch. Jim Caviezel stars as 6, who is engaged in a battle of wills with the sinister No. 2 (Sir Ian McKellan), who is trying to, what, break him? Obtain information? Those devoted to the original will appreciate some clever homages: the Lava Lamps in one apartment, the Rover, the iconic white balloon that foils any attempts at escape, and the signature catch phrases "Be seeing you" and the defiant "I am not a number, I am a free man." The original Prisoner was star and cocreator Patrick McGoohan's pet project. Caviezel does not capture his passion or gravitas. McKellan's 2 is the more fascinating figure. This version gives him a son, 11-12 (an unnerving Jamie Campbell Bower), in whom 6's plight plants seeds of doubt about the Village. Among the captivating special features is the Comic-Con panel with writer Bill Gallagher and cast members who pay respectful lip service to the original and to the majesty of McKellan. But there is a great moment when Gallagher recalls his phone call to McGoohan (who passed away before the production commenced) seeking his blessing on the project. McGoohan offered an intriguing casting suggestion of who should play No. 2. This Prisoner may not be as buzz-worthy as the original, which was truly a one-of-a-kind creation, but it stands on its own as an expertly played mind game. --Donald Liebenson
Commentary on two 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 Ian McKellen
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Top Customer Reviews
Let us dispense now of the poor relationship between Mr. Guinness’ character and his aged mother, which did not fit the one enjoyed by Cardinal Mindszenty and his mother, who was present at his arrest. Absent from this movie are the beatings showered on the real-life prelate and the (later verified) AVO-KGB “negative framings” that were to becloud and smother the truth and besmirch an enemy of the state.
It might seem disappointing that the Prisoner’s admissions of guilt would appear to lend credence to the charges confected against him; however in this instance it can be seen as one man’s confession being taken by others to mean something largely unrelated to his most personal meaning.
However, “The Prisoner” is not a documentary. The narrative explores two impossible to reconcile schools of thought. There can be no compromise between an ideology of collective and forcible class-absorption and one which safeguards the sanctity and dignity of human life. To pit these forces against each other, the drama narrows-down the vast geo-social arguments to two spokesmen. Speaking for the Universal Church and the conscription of the soul to the state are, respectively, the Prisoner (Alec Guinness) and his interrogator (Jack Hawkins), a pairing which makes for cinematic alchemy.
The dialogue supplied by Bridget Boland (both the original playwright and scenarist) expresses each man’s case in words authentic to their positions. The pen of Miss Boland and the direction of Peter Glenville (Becket) carefully weave a microcosmic battle of archangels, as if Michael and Lucifer were contending over the body of Moses.
One complaint made against this film is the unmentioned and vague “crime” of the cardinal; this had been done with intent, as in the case of Kafka’s “The Trial,” and other tales of bureaucratic hells. What matter the charge? They are all trumped-up and intended to destroy the name of an enemy and thus negate his usefulness to his cause. In most cases, the accused is never told exactly what he is guilty of.
Nothing and no one is wasted or casually employed. Wilfrid Lawson (the jailer), skillfully evolves from a sarcastic, amoral cog in the police-state machinery to exhibit fondness and even protectiveness of the Cardinal. When, after the Cardinal’s sentence is commuted and on the prelate’s behalf he remonstrates with the interrogator, he completes his words with a biting “sir,” slyly rendering to Caesar that which is his.
Raymond Huntley is pure efficient amorality as the general, and Gerard Heinz as the doctor demonstrates without words his inner conflicts. It would be a mistake to see as obligatory the romantic subplot of the young jailer (Kenneth Griffith) and the political fugitive's wife (Jeanette Sterke). Their circumstances depict by reflection their almost constant condition of terror.
A note in closing. Some complain that the characters speak with British accents when they are meant to be Eastern Europeans. We may presume that the language being spoken here is understood by the hearers without accent, something only one foreign to that language would hear.
I have been a HUGE fan of Patrick McGoohan since I was a kid in the 60s via SECRET AGENT/DANGER MAN, was blown away by THE PRISONER at the age of 11, have turned may people on to that series since then and attended PORTMERICON, the annual gathering of the show's "Appreciation Society" SIX OF ONE, held on the grounds of the Hotel Portmerion itself in Northern Wales.
Yeah, I'm a fan.
Except in name & some affectations, this mini-series ain't THE PRISONER, in the same way that the movie J.J. Abrams directed in 2009 ain't STAR TREK! Abrams directed a damn fine film, but it's more derivative of a certain 1977 film directed by George Lucas than anything dreamed up by Gene Roddenberry or his successors.
In the same respect, this mini-series isn't like anything that Patrick McGoohan might have dreamed up, either.
This does not mean that it's bad. It means that as viewers, we need to re-think our perspective & perhaps discard the prerequisite expectations that the title implies, before passing judgment.
The first time I viewed this mini-series, I was trying to make a connection to the original and could not. I think that this inability to connect is what has disappointed most of the nay-sayers. I wanted to see it again, but this time, taken in the context of it being a science-fiction story on its own terms, without any expectations of connecting to the original 1960s series.
This was almost as big a challenge as it was to re-watch BLADE RUNNER without the voice-over to see if I could arrive at different conclusions about the characters. After having seen it numerous times with the voice-over dialogue burned into my brain, to try NOT to have the insights that Deckard imparts in the voice-over creep into your consciousness while "seeing it again for the first time" ain't easy. It cannot be achieved 100%, but it can be achieved to a degree, absolutely.
Since I'd only viewed The Prisoner Mini-Series only once, was confused by that viewing and wanted to forget most of it, this was an easier task.
Without expectations of an overall similarity to the 1960s show, the mini-series is free to stand on its own merits, which it ably does. I couldn't help but be reminded of author Philip K Dick's themes of what makes one human, and what is reality. And like David Cronenberg's VIDEODROME, you wonder what is real, what is hallucination and at what point does the hallucination (or dream) manifest itself as reality?
When I later saw INCEPTION, the "re-imagining" of THE PRISONER was in its proper context: Both use the same science fiction concept, but toward different ends via different themes.
So, if you liked INCEPTION, this mini-series may be for you.
If you're a dedicated fan of Patrick McGoohan's THE PRISONER, just be amused at how they've borrowed some ideas from that series and you may be surprised at how much might you enjoy it. I remember the first dozen times I saw the original series' finale FALL OUT. "What a cheat!", I remember thinking. Over time I realized that the key to appreciating this episode (& I know about the chaos & hurried conditions under which it was produced) required abandoning my expectations of a nice, clean ending to the show.
If anything, THE PRISONER of the 1960s was about breaking free of conformity, especially those "prisons" which we impose upon ourselves, especially our views, perspectives and expectations. McGoohan's Number 6 might be disappointed that the detractors of this new mini-series may have forgotten that.
Be seeing you!
Bleaker, and also more visually stunning from the location.
As there is only one 2 and one 6, so we see a lot more of what motivates 2. Not so much of a relationship 2 with 6 though more development between 2 and family members. The personalities are very different as well. Pre village, 6 is an observer rather than a field agent, so fewer fist fights and less running around, more watching to find what is going on.
The original had more impact, probably because there was almost nothing like it around. This version comes after all kinds of film and TV series exploring this area, so we are more used to it. In the original, it was apparent fairly early what was wanted - answering one resignation question would lead to eventual loyalty or corruption of the individual. Here there is much more of a mystery of what 2 wants from 6, and indeed the motivations may change gradually and for good reasons in hindsight.
This series wraps up more tightly - seems like the script ending was known before completion, while in the original the writers had little idea of how to finish it.
4 stars - a good series but there is more competition in the genre so harder to be completely new.
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