Be screening you

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 by

Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel

Ian McKellen and Jim Caviezel

ITV1 launched its remake of The Prisoner to British press last night at the Odeon West End in London’s Leicester Square, screening the first two episodes to journalists.

Written by Bill Gallagher (Lark Rise to Candleford, Out of the Blue) and co-produced with America’s AMC, it’s a worthwhile undertaking indeed, despite the huge expectation the project provokes. In an era when US TV is big on puzzles and ellipitical plotting, The Prisoner fits in very well indeed. And what it really has in its favour is this version is a series, with a finite run (six episodes) and a definite end. So there’s no fear of a plot in flux, as showrunners consider the possibility of further seasons. We will get answers.

Introducing the screening, Sir Ian McKellen said: “It was about 18 months ago when the scripts arrived. It was only for part one, I think. Bill Gallagher’s name on the outside, so I was already excited. And the title made me read it immediately, which I don’t always do. When I read episode one, I then needed to read episode two. Then I needed to get  three and four and five. But long before six was written I said, ‘yes’.

“It was just a job that I had to take. I didn’t even know who else was going to be in it at that point, nor the fact we were going to go to Southern Africa .

“There have been ups and there have been downs, but all along I knew this was going to work. Then, last week, I saw the whole thing in one stretch. By God, that was confirmed. I think the work on the screen is absolutely astonishing. And look beyond the main characters and see what’s going on in the background. You’ll see some of the finest performances from young actors gathered together. And the leading man, Jim Caviezel? Well, to die for.

“What can I tell you? You can’t talk about this, because you start unravelling the plot… But there are clues all the way through. This is a thriller and if you want to know what’s going to happen next, listen hard, put your popcorn down and just revel in it.”

I mentioned expectations, and of course you can’t avoid them watching this. They make you second-guess the show in a way you wouldn’t a new commission. So, whereas in any other instance, learning more about 6′s mysterious backstory would make perfect sense, here, as soon as his occupation is confirmed, it diminishes him a little. Mind you, Caviezel is great in the role of 6. More passive than Patrick McGoohan, but capable of raging against the machine when the story needs it. McKellan, as 2, is also impressive. He plays it passive-aggressive. Slow, deliberate movements. A quintessential gent. Menacing, but not surprising.

So far, the reviews in the US, where its currently airing, have been mixed. From what I’ve seen so far, I’ll definitely be seeing the final four episodes.


One Response to “Be screening you”

  1. John Phillips on November 18th, 2009 6:04 pm

    I should bloomin’ well hope we DON’T get answers. We certainly didn’t get any in the original version!