The Prisoner - Blu-ray Review

'begs the question; what is Gandalf doing here?'

Jim Caviezel must be one of the unluckiest actors around. After taking the starring role from (amongst others) Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Adrien Brody, Sean Penn and George Clooney in Terrence Malick's brilliant The Thin Red Line, you would have thought that the world was his lobster. And indeed, for a time, it seemed that that might be the case, with this Screen Rant article referencing the fact that Caviezel was actually at one point confirmed as Cyclops in X-Men and then appeared destined for Superman in Bryan Singer's reboot. Those roles however, never emerged and, perhaps more due to one other single role (that small matter of being Jesus) than anything else, Caviezel has slipped almost unnoticed into the world of TV and the remake of The Prisoner.

Which then of course begs the question; what is Gandalf doing here? Although Caviezel probably has his reasons for dipping his toes in the TV arena, Sir Ian McKellen is surely not short of offers. Together though, the presence of two recognisable names gives the 6-part mini series a measure of authority which, thankfully, is borne out as the two clash on screen.

The narrative follows a dual-strand as Caviezel's Number 6 wakes up to find himself in The Village, a mysterious and idealised community in the middle of the desert where everyone has a number rather than a name. Run by the shadowy 2 (McKellan), who seems intent on keeping 6 there, many subplots soon emerge including that of 313 (Ruth Wilson), the village doctor who takes a liking to 6 and 11-12 (Jamie Campbell Bower), 2's son who starts down the road of rebellion. Elsewhere, Michael (also Caivezel) has just resigned from his job in New York only to be confronted by Lucy (Hayley Atwell), a fellow employee who seems to know more than she's letting on about the mysterious company he worked for.

If this sounds like it has the potential to be confusing then it's because it does and choppy editing combined with some detached sound and inconsequential characters coming and going in the first two episodes don't give The Prisoner much chance of overcoming that fact. It is intriguing but, at the start at least, The Prisoner fails to deliver on said intrigue and 6's frustration at his predicament, where no other member of The Village seems to remember 'The Other Place', will be matched by the viewers', who are given precious little to feed on, perhaps in the main due to the lack of balance between the scenes in The Village and those in New York.

After a somewhat bizarre mid-season 'break' in episode 3 (an inconsequential departure into how surveillance works in The Village) episodes 4 and 5 really start to pick up the pace, providing some answers whilst posing some difficult and life-changing questions for many of the protagonists. Jamie Campbell Bower, one of many of the younger members of the cast who are soon set for bigger things, starts to come into his own as both an actor and a character and it's interesting that, come the end, 11-12 might actually have the most control over the narrative.

The finale (episode 6) does a great job of providing enough answers to satisfy an audience starved of narrative completion up to that point but does leave enough open to retain its continuous cult aesthetic. McKellen and Caviezel, happily at this point back to having meaningful conversations, excel with Caviezel showing a different side to 6 and McKellen suggesting there may be more ambiguity beneath the surface of 2 than previous episodes had suggested. Really smart turns by both Hayley Atwell and Ruth Wilson also help to pull a series which looked destined to be mediocre up to something more.

Although never destined for mainstream success, it could be argued that The Prisoner doesn't aim for it, instead happy in its allocated slot as a cult remake of what was already a cult series to begin with. Both frustrating and entertaining in equal measure, with the latter two of those feelings eventually winning out.

Look further...

'If you like movies like Gattaca, Equilibrium, The Truman Show or even TV series, Lost, then The Prisoner is definitely another mysterious story to watch' - HeyUGuys


  1. I quite liked the character of 11-12, very tragic at the end, his fate (both physical and otherwise), and Jamie Cambell Bower played him well. Now if only we could get him out of Twilight hell.

    Overall, though, this was pretty convulated for the sake of it, and I don't think the writers really thought it through. Pretty entertaining whenever Caviezel wasn't on screen. He didn't make it, I think, because he's a pretty dull actor. At least James Marsden has the cheekbones and a decent sense of humor. So there.

    Excellent review.

  2. I think that's a valid criticism of the series and the actor. I like Caviezel but you're right: I've never seen him show a sense of humour or even perhaps fun - exactly the things that made Witt (in TTRL) a great character - but I do think you need that to play the roles suggested.

    I too did find the series convuluted, especially at the start (were the woman working in the cafe, the old man at the very start or the psychiatrist really needed?) but overall I had fun and I was thinking about it for a long time afterwards.