Nicolas Cage teams up with eclectic Japanese director Sion Sono for a new under-the-radar post-apocalyptic film called Prisoners of the Ghostland that critics are calling “weird” and “off the rails,” but we’re used to that already in this genre. So how bad could it be?
While the new film is not in theaters yet, reviewers were able to check it out at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival (online) on January 31st. Reading through the most popular reviews, it seems that the movie is one of those love-it-or-hate-it flicks, with some even calling it Nic Cage’s next cult film. So let’s see what a few critics are saying.
“Don’t look for logic in Ghostland, but feel free to feast your eyes on everything else. Sono’s design sense has come a long way since the degraded-video aesthetic of 2001’s “Suicide Club.” Toshihiro Isomi’s too-busy (but admirably kooky) sets suggests a Japanese spin on the sort of recycled-future garbage dumps found in Terry Gilliam movies, where rusty plumbing and jerry-rigged Christmas lights can transform an abandoned car park into a traveling circus.”
“The film is many things, from zany, post-apocalypse nightmare fuel, to a stylized mash-up of Western and Samurai cinema. It even occupies that specifically modern Nic Cage space born from unhinged commitment and debts to the IRS, riding a fine line between serious and tongue-in-cheek (Cage plays an imprisoned bank robber fitted with ball-threatening explosives and tasked with rescuing a young girl in a nuclear wasteland). And yet, none of these descriptors do justice to what the movie really feels like.”
“Prisoners of the Ghostland might lose you during some of its less emotionally lucid moments, but even in the Hero’s confusion Cage always seems to know where he is and what he’s meant to do. He’s the unstoppable engine of a weirdly sedate film that often feels like it’s running on fumes; maybe it’s just the fact that his character’s testicles are going to explode off his body if he doesn’t keep things moving, but the actor never lets us forget that the clock is ticking.”
The Hollywood Reporter
“Describing the nature of Ghostland could eat up several paragraphs here, and it would probably sound a lot more interesting than it is onscreen. Suffice it to say that residents live in the long shadow of nuclear technology, both bombs and power plants that accidentally become destructive, and that the film’s production and costume designers had a lot of fun without worrying about why things look the way they do. […] All this madness would seem an ideal setting for, if nothing else, some patented Nic Cage craziness. But even at his most energetic here, the actor phones it in […] but Cage here is a faint shadow of his weirdest self, and his sincere self never showed up on set.”
Little White Lies
“[…] the bullets fly and swords clash, as East meets West in a sort of Rashomon-Dirty Harry-Mad Max battle royale. The costume and set design is a feast for the eyes, while Cage is clearly enjoying himself as another moody lone ranger beleaguered by violence. It’s not the whackiest Cage performance ever, but it doesn’t have to be in order to be effective; in fact, Prisoners of the Ghostland is a better film as a result of Cage not going too large. It allows Bill Moseley’s villain (dressed all in white and resembling Colonel Sanders in the process) to chew the scenery with aplomb without it feeling like a weird-off.”