Nicolas Cage is an actor recognized for taking dangers. Love him or hate him, the person’s method to appearing is undeniably his personal, and when he’s deployed in movies that take an equally idiosyncratic and unpredictable method, the outcomes are nearly at all times fascinating, if not at all times profitable.
2021’s Prisoners of the Ghostland, starring Cage as “Hero,” is each. A daring mixture of tones, genres, and storytelling gadgets, the film bashes its means through a post-apocalyptic plot like Fury Road re-told by somebody who noticed it on mushrooms and fell asleep midway by, whereas additionally unwittingly listening to an unique solid recording of Madame Butterfly the entire time.
Since at the least the times of The Seven Samurai, films has explored the fascinating affinity between Feudal Japan and the American Wild West, at the least so far as every are offered on movie. That stated, it’s laborious to consider a extra gleefully weird mash-up of the 2 genres than Prisoners of the Ghostland.
Indeed, whereas the roots of Prisoners of the Ghostland might return to samurai films from the likes of Masaki Kobayashi and Akira Kurasawa, and Westerns from directors like John Ford and Howard Hawks, the film’s most direct influences are the acid westerns of Alejandro Jodorowsky, Luc Moullet, George Englund, and others.
A Fever Dream of a Movie
Prisoners of the Ghostland is ready in a Japanese wasteland, the results of a fiery crash between a jail bus and a cargo of nuclear waste that by some means initiated a nuclear explosion and widespread fires. At least, this appears to be the case, primarily based on exposition given by a Greek refrain of Ghostland-dwellers, full with hand-drawn illustrations. There’s no actual purpose to doubt the reality of this story, besides that the knowledge comes inside a dream that Cage’s character, Hero, is having.
For Prisoners of the Ghostland, that is unimportant. The distinction between desires and actuality is versatile at most, and largely seemingly irrelevant. Cage’s character doesn’t even correctly sleep when he has these desires. They come up, as a substitute, as he reels in ache from one of many a number of small explosives sewn into his jumpsuit detonating as a result of he’s had impure ideas.
The sentence above will not be a plot abstract for Prisoners of the Ghostland, however ought to offer you a good suggestion what sort of film it’s. Also, anybody conversant in director Sion Sono’s absurdist, nihilistic films from Japan (Suicide Club, Cold Fish) in all probability has some concept of what they’re getting themselves into.
What the Heck is Prisoners of the Ghostland?
It’s the type of film the place a giant, bombastic, bizarre performance from Cage in full-on Elvis-impersonating, open-throated-shouting, scenery-chewing mode feels completely at residence.
Elements of the movie (vehicles, bicycles, explosive jumpsuit expertise) counsel that it takes place within the close to future. The units, although, are straight out of a low-budget Hollywood Western and many of the males costume and act like film cowboys, or at the least a selected concept of what film cowboys may be like within the fever dream panorama of the remainder of the film. The ladies, in the meantime, are executed up as geishas, and the villain’s principal henchman is a samurai of kinds named Yasujiro, performed with stoic understatement by Tak Sakaguchi in a subplot that appears lifted straight from a way more somber and critical film.
The movie’s antagonist, Bill Moseley’s drawling, sinister Governor, turns into related to the idea of Time itself by the tip of the film. Regardless of the success of Hero, the film has already constructed itself on the premise that previous, current, and future are held aside solely by mutual consent, and may very well be blended as simply as languages, genres, and kinds by the proper artist.
The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
In 2018 Cage informed IndieWire that Prisoners of the Ghostland “may be the wildest film I’ve ever made,” which, given his filmography, is actually saying one thing. Cage himself offers neither his finest nor wildest efficiency within the movie, although the bar for every of these issues is ready remarkably excessive.
As a felony haunted by a financial institution theft gone fallacious, Cage is bearded, brooding, and taciturn. He manages to come back throughout as a superb man led astray by misfortune, nearly a variation on his character in Con Air, although the film approaches this characterization by alternating between fully ignoring it and beating the viewers over the pinnacle with it.
Cage matches this with a efficiency that’s by turns stoic, goofy, and bellowing in ache. His character is both haunted or probably even aided by the ghosts of the victims of his violent crimes. Perhaps, simply as Prisoners of the Ghostland manages to combine previous and future, east and west, somber and goofy, it’s each.
In the End
Ultimately, Prisoners of the Ghostland is an enchanting, broadly neglected film. Nicolas Cage doesn’t break any new floor in his efficiency right here, however he does ship the type of exuberant, expressionist efficiency that many followers have come to anticipate from him in a movie that’s overflowing with extra concepts than it’s able to executing. It’s the type of enjoyable, boisterous film that may be laborious to come back by currently, and a must-watch for anybody on the lookout for a break from the norm.