Prisoners of War (2009)

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Released 3-Apr-2013

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Drama Series None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 495:18 (Case: 550)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Gideon Raff
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ishai Golan
Yoram Toledano
Assi Cohen
Mili Avital
Yael Abecassis
Adi Ezroni
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Prisoners of War (Hebrew: Hatufim or Abductees) was first shown between March and May 2010. It was produced, written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Gideon Raff. At the time of its broadcast it was Israel's highest-rated TV drama of all time. It has since become famous for been adapted into the hit US television series, Homeland starring Damian Lewis and Claire Danes. What is little known, however, is that the international rights to Prisoners of War were sold before it was broadcast on the basis of the strength of the script! In hindsight, this has turned out to be a prudent and wise decision as Homeland is now onto its third season at the time of writing this review, as is Prisoners of War.

     The synopsis, taken from Australian DVD distributor Madman's website, explains the plot as a “psychological thriller that will leave you wondering who the enemy really is". That is the hook of the series in a nutshell, and I mean hook, as once you've started on this series, I assure you, you will not turn away!

     The Madman webpage for Prisoners of War explains that Prisoners of War begins with the return of three soldiers who had been in captivity for 17 years. Two of them come back alive; one returns in a coffin. During their long years of absence there was no information as to their whereabouts and little is known about what they’ve been through. The series follows the two (and the people closest to them) as they attempt to go back to the lives they were yanked out of years ago. We follow them as they cope with their new reality on both a private and national level.

     On the personal level they are reintroduced to their family members: their wives who may or may not have moved on with their own lives; their kids who are strangers to them; their parents some of whom are no longer alive; and their friends who have been fulfilling their dreams and living their lives to the fullest while our heroes’ lives were put on hold; and also with each other. They’ve been each other’s everything for the past years and now they have to learn to live apart. On a national level, the three captives have turned into icons, symbols of the conflict. Almost every street corner has flags carrying their picture, stickers with their images decorate cars and windows. From two guys who spent their days in a tiny cell somewhere underground in a daily battle to survive they turn into public figures who may never live up to the myth created around them. Nimrode and Uri also have to get used to a world that is very different from the world they left behind. How can they compete to find a job for example when they don’t even know what the internet is, or who the president is, etc. In addition to their personal struggles and challenges, during the series the two go through intense interrogations with IDF psychologists who try to suck out of them every piece of information about the enemy and also to assess the national security damage caused by their capture. Soon it becomes clear that there is a lot more to this story than their personal drama. Some parts of their testimony don’t align and an undercover investigation is set to determine who the two really are, and what their motives might be.

     From the start it is clear that there’s a secret the two are unwilling to share which stands in the heart of the series. Format wise, the series exists on three time plains, each one with a distinct visual expression; the present, the past (before their capture) and bits and pieces of their life in captivity that throughout the duration of the series build a clear picture of what exactly happened there.

     A short synopsis of each episode is below. The series opener and finale are about 1 hour long, the other 8 episodes are 50 minutes or less in length.

     Season 1 Episode 1 - Homecoming (61:54)

     Two Israeli soldiers return home after 17 years in captivity in Lebanon. They are reunited with their families, but struggle to cope with memories of their time as hostages, as well as adjusting to life in the civilian world. Meanwhile, their relatives try to cope with having the men back in their lives - while a government official suspects they are hiding sinister secrets.

     Season 1 Episode 2 - The Facility, Part 1 (49:28)

     Nimrod and Uri face an intense interrogation during which they are forced to relive terrifying moments from their 17 years in captivity. They are also questioned by Major Haim Cohen, who is determined to find out why details within the two men's accounts do not quite match up. He bugs their bedroom and watches them on a hidden camera, hoping to catch them discussing their stories.

     Season 1 Episode 3 - The Facility, Part 2 (48:08)

     An intelligence officer cracks the code Nimrode and Uri have been using to communicate at night, and produces a transcript of their conversation. However, Cohen believes the discovery is innocuous - until a phone conversation leads to a startling revelation.

     Season 1 Episode 4 - Letters from Mom (48:07)

     Cohen surprises Nimrode at home and questions him about his time in captivity - prompting an upsetting flashback. Uri continues to ignore Nurit's calls and pays a visit to his mother's grave, but receives a surprise when an attractive woman introduces herself to him.

     Season 1 Episode 5 - Keep Your Soul (46:15)

     Amiel's funeral brings back disturbing memories for Uri and Nimrode, as Yael asks them for information about her brother's death. Meanwhile, Talya is furious with Nurit.

     Season 1 Episode 6 - The Journal (41:22)

     Nimrode is interviewed on TV about his experiences in captivity, and tries to return to everyday life by starting a new career. However, his confidence begins to falter.

     Season 1 Episode 7 - A Picture from Hell (46:20)

Nimrode questions Talya's faithfulness, and struggles to believe she did not see other men while he was in captivity. Uri has a haunting flashback.

     Season 1 Episode 8 - Family Portrait (49:08)

     Nimrode investigates the phone number his captors gave him, but as his mood grows increasingly violent, he starts to realise he needs professional help. Meanwhile, Yael is unsure whether to go through with her plan to sell the house.

     Season 1 Episode 9 - Awake at Night (47:51)

     Nimrode quits his job at the advertising agency, and his failure to inform Taliya of his resignation causes a huge argument between them. Tensions were already at breaking point after he refused to attend a group counselling session she arranged. Meanwhile, Yael traces Ilan's address and pays him a surprise visit, and Nimrode receives a mysterious call from the daughter of a woman whose window he shattered with a bullet.

     Season 1 Episode 10 - The Tape (56:07)

     Uri and Nimrode search for the truth after receiving information from garage owner Zineb's daughter - but neither is prepared for what they uncover. Meanwhile, Talya's life is in disarray after her son runs away, Iris tries to confess her true identity to Uri, and Nurit makes a decision that has life-changing consequences for her family.

     Prisoners of War can be classified as a drama rather than a military thriller. The show is about the adjustment the characters in the story have to go through when loved ones are presumed dead and return after many years (like the plot of Cast Away!). As briefly mentioned above, the series contains three timelines, flashbacks prior to captivity, time spent in captivity and the modern day adjustment to real-life and I believe that this format style helps the audience to empathise with the characters, to understand their faults, of which each character has many!

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Each episode of Series One was made for $US200,000 for television. If this was a film, it would be considered low-budget, so don't expect the video transfer to be like a US television show!

     The aspect ratio is 1:78:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions, which is the modern aspect ratio for television shows.

     This ten-part series is split into 3 discs for DVD. The first disc contains four episodes. The first one is over one hour and has an average bitrate of 5.1 m/b per sec. The remaining episodes are 48-49 minutes each with an average bitrate of 5.9 m/b per sec. The remaining two discs contain three episodes each. These range from 41 to 49 minutes in length, except for the series finale which lasts 56 minutes. Episode 5 to 10 average 6.9 m/b per sec.

     The colour timing in this series is as expected. I would say that colours are slightly dull due to the subject matter, however there are moments of bright scenes where required for the story.

     There are no transfer issues here. The only thing to note is that, possibly due to budgetary constraints, the image is has slight grain throughout.

     Optional subtitles are provided in English, in yellow.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The series was made for television, so the audio transfer doesn't feature surround effects or a need for the subwoofer. On the whole, it's standard enough for a television show.

     The main audio track for each episode is a Hebrew Dolby Digital 2.0 track encoded at 224 kbps.

     The dialogue is clear, but since it is in Hebrew it may not be a major issue for English-speaking audiences.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no extras unfortunately!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 2 United Kingdom release is identical to the Region 4 DVD release by Madman.

Summary

     For me, Series One of Prisoners of War became a surprising and pleasant enough addiction! The story draws you in slowly and develops at a pace which will leave you intrigued enough for the next episode. Channel SBS aired the first season between January and March, 2013 in Australia. The good news is that Season Two, with fourteen episodes, aired in Israel in 2012 so there is much to look forward to! In the meantime, do yourself a favour and pick up this release locally on DVD from Madman; you'll be hooked in no time, I assure you!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Thursday, June 13, 2013
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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