The Prisoner (2009)

It’s fair to say that the classic 60s show, The Prisoner, was ahead of its time. With its continuing adventures of an ex-secret agent, who battered heads against a mysterious conspiracy that has held him captive. Brimming with metaphor, in the picturesque, yet authoritarian community known as The Village. In 2009, the 60s paranoid serial, got a modern reimagining, one that evoked the well-regraded classic while doing its own thing in The Prisoner.

Despite lacking the spy serial background of Patrick McGoohan, Jim Caviezel leaps into the role rather well.

After resigning from his job, a man picks up a woman at a bar, and spends the next day waking up on a desert community, with no clue over his identity nor how he ended up there. The only settlement nearby is a peculiar community known as The Village. Life is idyllic here, but enclosed, and is constantly under observation. The citizens are numbers, not free men, calling the newcomer Number 6. This area is governed by Number 2, who wants to 6 to settle into his life her, but questions lurk in 6’s mind: Has Number 6 always been a member? What was his job in New York? As Number 6 sets out to find the truth, and to thwart the authority that attempts to keep him as a prisoner.

Ruth Wilson, who is no stranger to intrigue, as her staring role in Mrs Wilson has shown.

While some efforts have been made to emulate the old show, it is mostly a revamped creation. Using the original as a jumping-off point. Although there are throwback lines to reward viewers of the original 60s hit, especially the episode titles. Without the visually distinctive Welsh village of Portmeirion, the reimagining compensates by surrounded its village with a seemingly eternal desert. There are little touches here and there, I love the fake soap opera, a nice invention. Further adding complexity to the matters is the existence of another underground society, known as The Dreamers, an invention that adds spice to 6’s continuing crusade against The Village.

If you were going to pick only one Number 2 for your series, you can pick a lot worse than Ian McKellen!

There is an overarching conspiracy that runs deeply throughout the miniseries. Whereas the original had a new Number 2 every day of the Week, Ian McKellen serves as 2 for the duration. A good choice, as the amount of mental jousting between 2 and 6 is fun enough to prop up the six-part miniseries. Joining him as characters who never get replaced are such recognisable names, like Ruth Wilson, as No. 313 is another interesting addition to the formula, acting as a potential love interest. Joining her, before his more recognised appearances on The Walking Dead and Line of Duty sees Lennie James as a taxi driver 147. The Prisoner uses many means to help bewilder its audience, Distorting camera tricks are one of the show’s most powerful tools along with skipping frames to further confuse. This was around the time of Lost, so the focus on a serialised conspiracy was a powerful draw for new audiences. Those who follow through the foggy intrigue until the end will be treated to a much clearer solution than the famously ambiguous ending of the original. Although this could be a blessing or a curse, depending on what you want out of the experience.

While not as distinctive as Portmeirion, the new Village does have its charm.

Recreating the psychedelic cult classic would be a fool’s errand, yet the 2009 miniseries uses the cult classic as a launchpad for its own thing. 2009 brings with it a more paranoid and conspiratorial world, where a growing mistrust of the institutions in our lives, made the plight of this solitary man vs an omniscient authority even more compelling. If you can spend a couple of hours getting wrapped in a mysterious and taut thriller, then I know of a nice quiet villager, where nobody knows your name.

The Village is such a nice place, why would anybody leave?

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