Sundance Film Festival: ‘Prisoners Of The Ghostland’ Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Prisoners of the Ghostland is a very fun film to sit through. It is beautifully shot, colourful and has a really interesting cast of characters. This was my first Sion Sono film and I really appreciated his style of filmmaking. He blends genres and breaks structural boundaries with his storytelling. He draws from Westerns, samurai and post-apocalyptic films to make his first American film. In the frontier city of Samurai town, a bank robber (Nicolas Cage) is sprung from jail, by a wealthy warlord ‘The Governor’ (Bill Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella) has gone missing.

The story is very straightforward; it is a quest through the city and The Governor explains what Nicolas Cage has to do. The opening scene and the introduction to Sono’s world was really cool – I think that’s the best way to describe this film- it was just so cool. There was so much flare to his direction and the art direction was really strong. If Nicolas Cage wasn’t in this film, then it would have gone in a completely different direction. All I can say about Prisoners of the Ghostland is that it will definitely become a cult classic because of how it perceives Western culture. It may not be for everyone, but it is an interesting watch.

The film suffers from a poorly written script and some pacing issues. It was all over the place and instead of just enjoying the world that Sono created, I found myself trying to make sense of what any of it meant. Maybe this film isn’t meant to be symbolic, or parallel any world for that matter, and you just have to take it for what it is. They also made it seem that this film was going to have more fight scenes and it would be equivalent to a Tarantino bloodbath. However, the action was severely lacking as well. It was really hard for me to get into this film and all I can do is appreciate what Sono attempted to do with this.

Prisoners of the Ghostland may not be the film for me but it does have some really cool aspects that can definitely be appreciated. It is really difficult to understand what is going on but hey, Nicolas Cage is ranting, screaming and wearing a leather outfit. The soundtrack is really fun and it works with the action on screen! I really wanted to love this because I enjoy different takes on action films but this didn’t have a strong enough script for me to be invested in the project.

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