Prisoners of the Ghostland Review: Where Style Leads Nowhere

Post-apocalyptic thrillers are about as commonplace as they come in Hollywood, and it takes a lot to stand out from the other available fare streaming in droves on one service or the next. Prisoners of the Ghostland promises to upset the status quo, using Nicolas Cage's own pull quote in much of the film's marketing. "The wildest movie I've ever made," Cage says in a quote plastered to the center of the film's Blu-ray slipcover. Yet, here we are, with Prisoners of the Ghostland failing to reach new heights. While it's far from formulaic, the film fails to pick up its pieces and make a coherent plot that would have propelled it elsewhere.

The movie takes place in the fictional Samurai Town, the last "safe" place in a Japan that's been ravaged by radioactive material. This place is run by Bill Moseley's The Governor, a malevolent dictator who quickly enlists Cage's Hero to retrieve Bernice (Sofia Boutella) from the Ghostlands, the lawless areas surrounding Samurai Town.

Using Cage's own words, "wild" can certainly be used to explain this feature, largely because of its haphazard plot and bizarre editing. Because of what one can assume is budgetary restraints, the film skips any major action pieces and chooses to pick up immediately after the fight. That results in jumps through time where viewers randomly find Cage's character laying unconscious on the ground, signaling a fight had just taken place.

Beyond the plot, however, Prisoners of the Ghostland happens to be a gorgeous film. Sôhei Tanikawa's work as director of photography teleports viewers into a whole new world consisting of a perfect blend of horror and beauty. A large amount of that can be attributed to production designer Toshihiro Isomi as well, with the film including several expansive set pieces helping flesh this world out a bit further than the script allows.

Cage's performance also falls in line with his "wild" comments, including a bizarre scene where, well, part of his genitalia is blown off because of his failure to follow the rules set forth by those who've hired him. Elsewhere, it's peak Cage as he smolders his way through the Ghostlands in search of some semblance of life.

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Even when the script tries to inject some sense of humanity into the film, it stills barely scratches the surface and the result oftentimes is hollow. Prisoners of the Ghostland tries to be something larger than it really is, and it doesn't spend enough time excelling in any certain spot to make itself stand out from the rest of the field.

Rating: 2 out of 5