Fox’s new thrill ride, “Prison Break,” is everything a television show should be — smart, stylish and completely unrealistic. Protagonist Michael Scofield (Wentworth Miller, “The Human Stain”) holds up a bank in order to help his supposedly innocent brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell, “Blade: Trinity”) escape from the prison where, coincidentally, both of them end up.

TV/New Media Reviews
This looks more like a J. Crew catalog than a prison. (Courtesy of Fox)

Such implausible ideas should come with a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode to disband all logic.”Other action-filled dramas with far-fetched premises are making a big impact on the ratings, and Fox is hoping to cash in.

Michael’s plan is to break his brother out and prove his innocence to the world. Because he’s a structural engineer who helped build the jail and happened to get a hold of the blueprints long enough to have them tattooed onto his body, he might just have a chance. But for all his careful planning, nothing can quite prepare Michael for the actual prison experience. Upon his arrival, he realizes that although he thought he had accounted for everything, small details inevitably disrupt his plan. He must learn to deal with the other inmates, and the different alliances he strikes up tend to cause new problems. Remarkably, his eerily calm demeanor never cracks, even as a vicious fight erupts all around him during his welcome week.

Miller is brilliant as the single-minded, slightly sociopathic Michael. His portrayal immediately draws the viewer into the head of this slightly deranged and completely riveting character. The important bond between Michael and Lincoln has the potential to take a pivotal role and provide interesting characterization and plotlines for viewers in the future.

The supporting cast turns out with excellent performances; Robin Tunney (“Paparazzi”) plays Veronica Donovan, an attorney, who despite insurmountable evidence, holds onto the hope her ex-boyfriend, Lincoln, did not commit the murder.

There’s also the peculiar assortment of people within the prison’s dreary walls. Administrator Warden Pope (Stacy Keach, “American History X”) forms a close bond with Michael, while Dr. Sarah Tancredi (Sarah Wayne Callies, “Tarzan”), a sexy doctor and daughter of Illinois’s governor, seems destined to become Michael’s love interest. Former mob boss and general intimidator John Abruzzi (Peter Stormare, “Constantine”) and Charles Westmoreland (Muse Watson, “America Outlaws”) are two interesting inmates whose side-stories provide further insight into criminals’ minds as they cope with life away from power and freedom.

Despite its outrageously absurd premise, “Prison Break” is guaranteed to entertain. Even with the seriousness of the topics involved (murder, death row and government conspiracies), it never takes itself too seriously and neither should viewers.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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