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Fantasia Festival Review: ‘Prisoners of the Ghostland’ is Oftentimes Confounding Yet Strangely Mesmerizing

August 25, 2021Ben MK

There's no mistaking Nicolas Cage's penchant for choosing unique and offbeat projects. Over the years, the Oscar-winning actor has followed up his roles in such blockbusters as The Rock and National Treasure with such decidedly bizarre fare as Color Out of Space and Willy's Wonderland. Now, Cage is adding to his extremely varied repertoire with Sion Sono's Prisoners of the Ghostland. And while it may not be his most memorable character portrayal, it's definitely out-there.

The story of a man on a mission, the film follows its unnamed hero (Cage), a convicted bank robber who finds his jail sentence lifted so that he can embark on a suicidal rescue operation. Enlisted by the iron-fisted Governor of Samurai Town (Bill Moseley) to retrieve his daughter Bernice (Sofia Boutella), who has been kidnapped and taken deep into the dystopian wilderness known as the Ghostland, our hero is forced to don a black leather bodysuit boobytrapped with explosives and given a five-day deadline. Once he reaches the Ghostland, however, he discovers that the situation might not be all that he thought it was. Compelled by his conscience to atone for his former sins, our hero must now decide where his allegiances truly lie — but with time running out and the Governor ready to claim his pound of flesh, will he be able to convince the inhabitants of the Ghostland to join him?

Also starring cult-favorite Japanese actor Tak Sakaguchi and Cage's Face/Off co-star, director Nick Cassavetes, the result is an oftentimes confounding yet strangely mesmerizing journey into a post-apocalyptic nightmare. Suffice to say, Prisoners of the Ghostland certainly won't be for everyone. Nonetheless, if you consider yourself a connoisseur of Cage's late-career endeavors, it's practically essential viewing.

Prisoners of the Ghostland makes its Canadian premiere at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 40 min.

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