It’s disarming to meet a knight in Chuck Taylors. It’s also highly appropriate for Sir Ian McKellen to dress so casual-cool for our interview as he promotes “The Prisoner,” a brilliant new miniseries that manipulates appearance and perception while deftly delving into themes of paranoia in a seemingly civilized, but truly authoritarian, society.
“Individual’s place in society, surveillance, the knowledge the authorities have on you simply because you carry a cell phone,” McKellen rattles off the heady topics “The Prisoner” examines. “They know everything that’s in that phone, everything you’ve said, every message you’ve sent. You cannot delete a message, did you know that?”
McKellen is the man behind the conspiracies, not the one pondering them in “The Prisoner.” He plays Two, the leader of a mysterious, modern-day utopian society where everyone is known by a number, not a name. It’s called the Village, and when New Yorker Michael (an intense Jim Caviezel), wakes up in the strange, resort-like town disoriented and demanding a way out, he is told there is no out. There is no New York. And by the way, he is number Six.
Based on the cult British series from the 1960s, the update is a mental chess match between McKellen and Caviezel, a grand, terrifying meditation on freedom versus conformity and state control.
But “Six and Two are closer than they think,” McKellen insists. “Still, they don’t stop arguing and battling and fighting it out … thank God not physically, because I’d lose every single one of those,” the knight genially concedes.