Nicolas Cage in ‘Prisoners of the Ghostland’ Sundance Movie Review: Thunderdome Cage Match

The true Nicolas Cage fans still see every movie he makes. The fair weather fans might have flaked after the last Ghost Rider, but those who stuck around have discovered treasures like The Trust, Army of One, Mandy and Color Out of Space. Prisoners of the Ghostland, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is exactly the kind of movie Cage should still be making. 

Only Nicolas Cage can rescue the ‘Prisoners of the Ghostland’

Prisoners of the Ghostland begins with Hero (Cage) and Psycho (Nick Cassavetes in a Face/Off reunion) robbing a bank. Already you get a sense of director Sion Sono’s elegant visual stylings with the bank’s white walls and the bright, primary colors of the customers. 

Nicolas Cage and Nick Cassavetes
L-R: Nick Cassavetes and Nicolas Cage | Sundance Institute

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Then, Bernice (Sofia Boutella) and two other women escape from a sort of samurai village in the snow. There are also bright colors here, contrasted with the falling snowflakes. The Governor (Bill Mosely) assigns Hero to bring Bernice back.

There’s a catch though. The Governor gives Hero a black leather outfit, which is always nice to see Cage suited up again. However, it’s a Snake Plissken scenario. There are explosives on his arms, groin and neck. The arms will sense if he’s violent with Bernice and blow his arms off. The groin will sense if Hero gets impulses towards Bernice and the neck will explode if he tries to take it off, or fails in his mission. Rest assured, more than one bomb goes off, and Hero continues on his quest regardless. 

Nicolas Cage goes Mad Max 

The Governor’s town is already captivatingly weird. His minions sing for Hero, and Hero has to fight samurais bare handed before he leaves. When Hero ventures into the Ghostland, the color fades. It is a desert wasteland, but infused with samurai visuals to give it an entirely different look. It’s of a piece with Mad Max, but perhaps Max never made it to Japan. 

Prisoners of the Ghostlands star Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage | JC Olivera/Getty Images

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Prisoners of the Ghostland is not as action packed as Hollywood’s post-apocalyptic films are, but that just leaves it more time for world building. The longer Hero spends in the Ghostland, the more bizarre corners of the world come forward. The sets and costume designs tell entire unspoken stories about how this world got here. 

Sono saves most of the action for the climax. Governor’s samurai Yasujiro (Tak Sakagushi) does most of the fighting, but Hero does some samurai moves too. 

The performance 

So, is this one of Cage’s crazy performances? It’s safe to say, yes. As a criminal and convict, Hero should be called Antihero. It probably says more about the Ghostland that he is considered a hero. 

Nicolas Cage Spirit Awards
Nicolas Cage | Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

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There are plenty of extreme situations to which Hero can react. He even adds his own flourish to the traditional martial arts cry. So, come for the Cage and stay for the Ghostland. It’s a fun place to visit, but you’ll be glad you don’t live there.