Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Prisoner (2009)

Several years ago I checked out all the videos of The Prisoner and made Kelly watch them with me.  For those who don't know, The Prisoner was a short-lived series on BBC in the late 1960s.  It only ran for 17 episodes, but it gained quite a cult following.  It has long been available on video, but AMC decided to capitalize on the series' popularity by making a new miniseries version of it.  The results are mixed, to say the least.

On the plus side, the production values are certainly higher now than they were 40 years ago.  That said, the original had some pretty nifty sets and effects.  The new version is evidence that a bigger budget and better technology alone don't necessarily lead to improvements.  The acting is pretty good, too.  James Caviezel plays Number 6, and Ian McKellen plays Number 2.  Both of these gentlemen are terrific actors, and they do the best they can with the material.  The other performances are equally as good.

Both series are set in an idyllic village, where everyone seems happy and every need is taken care of.  Beyond the village, there is nothing, or at least what everyone's delusion tells them.  Number 6 finds himself trapped in the village after resigning from his job.  The whole series has him trying to figure out what or where the village is, why he was sent there, and how he can escape.  The original series snowballed into nonsense at the end, but in a sort of weirdly charming way.  The new miniseries' resolution is also nonsensical and weird, but tries too hard to be more realistic, and in doing so ends up disappointing.
Fans of the original series will enjoy this updating, mostly for its nods to the original.  The big white ball that prevents escape from the village makes some appearances, though it's not as prominent.  Some visual clues are there, like the high wheel bicycle, and, of course, the villagers use the catch phrase, "Be seeing you."  But besides the overall set-up, in terms of story there's very little connection.

On the merits of the miniseries alone, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who is not a fan of the original TV series.  You will want to find a better use of 5 hours or so.  Be seeing you!

Bottom line, 1 1/2 stars.

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