Sundance Film Festival: Nic Cage's 'Prisoners of the Ghostland' is pure action lunacy

Prisoners of Ghostland Sundance Film Festival.jpg
Nick Cassavetes and Nic Cage appears in Prisoners of the Ghostland by Sion Sono, an official selection of the Premieres section at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. (Photo: Sundance Institute)

Prisoners of the Ghostland
3 out of 5 Stars
Sion Sono
Writer: Aaron Hendry, Reza Sixo Safai
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Sofia Boutella, Nick Cassavetes
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic Western, Action

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — Nicolas Cage has become something of a Sundance Film Festival regular over the past few years. This year’s entry is “Prisoners of the Ghostland” a film that exists outside of genre (or inside numerous of them) with a screenplay that is almost nonsensical but still manages to tell a very complicated story in just 100 minutes.

What you need to know is that Cage spends the better part of the film running around in a leather jumpsuit that has been fitted with bombs located at his neck, elbows and testicles. He’s meant to find a woman (Sofia Boutella) who has fled from a local official’s harem. This sends him into the Ghostland, a post-apocalyptic wasteland haunted by mutants, samurai and the lower classes.

“Prisoners of the Ghostland” is too many things at once. Strangely, that’s part of its appeal. It’s a post-apocalyptic western with samurai swordfights and bizarre dialogue that is all shouted for maximum effect. It regularly switches between English and Japanese, and the subtitles appear to be literal translations where meaning is often lost. The time shifts in the narrative aren’t always communicated. Character motivations aren't entirely clear either. It’s up to the audience to put together all the pieces of the story. I think there's a metaphor about being a slave to time in there. Sometimes its hard to differentiate between artist intent and pure lunacy.

You won’t be bored. I can promise you that.

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