'Person of Interest' Season 1 Blu Ray Review: Engaging Drama Set in Our Age of Surveillance
With "Person of Interest," creator Jonathan Nolan joins the ranks of the few filmmakers today that have earned something special with their audiences: trust.
That's a quality that the few Clint Eastwoods and Christopher Nolans possess today. Most of what we see on television or in our local multiplex is either meant to sell us something or bring across some political talking point the majority of America doesn't care for and doesn't want to be force fed.
As a Libertarian, I was cautious about the first season of "Person of Interest," available this week on Blu-ray and DVD. The story is as follows: reclusive billionaire Harold Finch has built something called "The Machine" for our post- 9/11 government. "The Machine" monitors everything we do and say. We are monitored 24/7, and the machine uses our actions and words to predict terrorist activities. But, "The Machine" compiles a separate list that it throws away at the end of every day because the crimes are considered "irrelevant" compared to the larger threat of terrorism.
Unable to cope with the knowledge of these violent acts being ignored, Mr. Finch hires the mysterious John Reece (Jim Caviezel) to intervene whenever Mr. Finch receives a number. You see, Mr. Finch remains unknown to the government and has hacked into "The Machine" so he receives the irrelevant list everyday. But "The Machine" can only spit out the social security numbers of people who are either the victims of the crime about to happen or the perps. We, and our heroes, never know. If this sounds confusing, it's because J.J. Abrams of "Lost" fame is the executive producer.
On paper, this sounds like a nightmare for a conservative. A show that endorses a basic police state? Are we going to get long expositions about the Patriot Act and how cyber security is necessary? This did not turn out to be case. Turns out, Jonathan Nolan is a storyteller first and foremost. From the the pilot episode, it's pretty well understood that "Person of Interest" is not just another CBS crime procedural. "Person of Interest" is the story of two very mysterious men trying to help people in a world where government is almost always the enemy and the good guys are just the guys who know the right people.
"The Machine" is simply a backdrop for the show, and Nolan and company never leave it at just that. The world these characters inhabit is not our future but our present. Our civil liberties are brought into question everyday by politicians looking to "protect" us. "Person of Interest" is the first show to truly take that concept head on.
Neoconservatives, beware: the show does touch on the War on Terror and the War on Drugs ... just not in the way one would think based on the premise. Libertarians can rejoice, however, at the way "Person" aims to tell its story about dying civil liberties and rogue heroes. However, the show never becomes heavy handed or heavily political despite its premise. It's a story and this is merely the first chapter.
We are introduced to two very mysterious characters who don't sit around and debate the goods and bads of "The Machine." Rather they deal with the effects of it and the world in which it inhabits, our world.
Jonathan Nolan and his writing staff have compiled one hell of a show, and that is not because it works as a week to week crime solving hour or serial mystery. It successfully combines the two. Shortly into the pilot episode I felt the same way I felt watching Christopher Nolans' "Dark Knight" trilogy- relieved. I wasn't on guard. I simply sat back and enjoyed myself. This is because you can feel the hands of a true storyteller guiding you through this world. This storyteller knows where he's taking you and he knows when to give and when not to give.
We are given some great week to week crimes which always have a layer of surprise because most of the time our heroes know as little as us. There's also a great mystery being revealed each episode. This isn't a "CSI" show where we are going to be slapped in the face with spinoffs and endless character changes over the course of the rest of our lives. "Person of Interest" has characters with mysterious motivations and back stories of which we are fed tidbits when most needed.
The central backdrop to the show, "The Machine," and whether it should exist, is something Jonathan Nolan expertly and slowly doles out. Don't worry though. He knows where he's taking us. I can feel it.
Caviezel, Michael Emerson, Taraji P. Henson and Kevin Chapman all shine in their respective roles. Caviezel proves he's a very underrated action star. "Interest" requires his character to take part in a heavy amount of action and Caviezel always pulls it off. We never feel the fakery of stuntmen and effects. That probably has a lot to do with his training with Navy SEALs. Emerson shines in his first post- "Lost" role, and Henson and Chapman are way better than they need to be which is always a welcome surprise.
The Blu-ray combo pack provided by Warner Bros. contains high definition, standard definition and digital copies of season 1, audio commentary for the pilot episode, an extended un-aired pilot episode, a gag reel (where Caviezel does his very good Christopher Walken impression) and a special look at the world we live in and just how monitored we truly are by Big Brother.
It is always welcome to discover artists who prefer to be storytellers first and examine character and social consequences rather than pushing their latest environmental study on us. "Interest" is worth a look and worth checking out when the second season premieres this fall. Thank God for people like Jonathan Nolan. They are the few keeping actual film-making and storytelling alive today.