The Prisoner

The Prisoner


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Lost. Life On Mars. Twin Peaks. Battlestar Galactica. It seems that every great sci-fi series from the last 15 years or so was influenced in one way or another by Patrick McGoohan's seminal Sixties series The Prisoner (which, impressively, he wrote, starred in and created). Sure, it wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but in this reboot-obsessed era it was only a matter of time before someone took a modern stab at it...

So it falls to Jim Caviezel to step up to the plate as a surveillance expert. Having recently quit his job, he mysteriously wakes up in an isolated desert town known only as "the village" with no memory of getting there. Labelled "Six" as all the inhabitants have numbers instead of names, he finds out the place is run by man called "Two" (Ian McKellen) and begins desperately searching for a way home.

Copy picture

Though intelligent and smart enough to ask questions, AMC's re-envisioning is sadly unsatisfying. Dragging at times and lacking both humour and heart, it rarely intrigues in the way McGoohan's often loopy version sometimes did. Arguably, the frequently too-crazy original wasn't as perfect as nostalgic critics suggest, but by adding in two unnecessary love interests and taking away the previously integral quest to find out who "Number One" was (barely an issue here), this is a slightly more mainstream affair without the driving mystery.

Still, not all of the changes are bad. Condensing the episode-load from 17 down to six (six, gettit?) is a wise move (Pat only wanted his show to have seven episodes), the move away from the perfectly eerie Port Merion isn't a completely bad idea, given how beautiful Namibia is and the ending - while underwhelming - is at least more defined than the borderline insanity of its predecessor.

As for the decision to have a single "Two" (previously there was a different Number Two each week), it means we get more of the magnetic-as-always Ian McKellen. As our six, Caviezel is a good choice and does his Count Of Monte Cristo wronged-man-trying-to-escape to good effect - but ultimately he can't quite carry or elevate the kooky premise like, say, a John Simm. While the articulately r-r-rasping McGoohan's sad death obviously ruled out a farewell appearance (rumour suggests he wanted to play Two), there is an old man at the start wearing that iconic blazer...

Not awful, for sure, but The Prisoner remake is lacking that special something that made McGoohan's inconsistent magnum opus so memorable. With a big screen adaptation mentioned, looks like we may be seeing you once more.

Reviewed on: 14 Dec 2009
Share this with others on...
Modern remake of the Sixties classic, sees a surveillance expert finds himself stranded in a "the village".

Director: Nick Hurran

Writer: Bill Gallagher, based on the series created by Patrick McGoohan

Starring: James Caviezel, Ian McKellen, Hayley Atwell, Ruth Wilson, Lennie James, Jamie Campbell Bower, Rachael Blake, Renate Stuurman, Hanlé Barnard, Wolfgang Weissenstein, Sara Stewart, Vincent Regan, David Butler, Leila Henriques, Dar Dash

Year: 2009

Runtime: 360 minutes

Country: UK


Search database:

If you like this, try:

The Prisoner