A Weird Mishmash Of Different Ideas
Prisoners of the Ghostland feels like the movie equivalent of pineapple on pizza; you’ll either love it or hate it. This feels like a weird Frankenstein’s monster of different genres. There’s a bit of dystopian apocalypse, a bit of samurai action, a bit of absurdist comedy and a whole bunch of crazy (and utterly beautiful) symbology.
This is a film you really have to pay attention too though, with some sporadic bursts of editing that jumble up the screenplay intentionally.
The bold choices all feed into that “weird” hotpot of oddity that builds up all the way through the movie, keeping you glued to find out what happens next. Or roll your eyes and turn it off without a second glance – there really is no middle ground here.
Now, the story itself begins with three or four seemingly disparate scenes all stitched together at the beginning. Persevere through this though and the film does become clearer.
Our setting is the frontier city of Samurai Town, run by a particularly nasty warlord called The Governor.
A ruthless bank robber known simply as Hero is recruited for a rescue mission off the back of a bank robbery gone wrong. The Governor gives Hero three days (five if he can get Bernice to say her name before the allotted time runs out) to bring his granddaughter Bernice back. Oh, and Hero is strapped with an explosive suit for good measure too.
As Hero steps out, he bites off more than he can chew in the wilderness, running into bandits and facing the horrifying truth of what happened to him in the past.
While the story is straightforward enough, there’s a lot of similarities to both Animal Farm and Mad Max in the ideas presented.
Mixed in with a colourful palette, some gorgeous cinematography and a lot of symbolism, Prisoners of the Ghostland feels very much like an arthouse indie project. The trouble is, this is all presented with a distinct lack of action and urgency.
These final two points are the biggest deterrents for this film. It takes a long time for the main plot to get going and even longer for any sort of action to seep into this. The world is certainly engaging and interesting to explore though but it’s not difficult to see why this movie is receiving wildly different reviews both from audiences and critics alike.
For me personally, Prisoners of the Ghostland delivers an intriguing blend of ideas that frustrates as much as it delights. This is one weird film and if you can go in expecting a polarizing experience, you’ll be best prepared for what Nic Cage’s latest project throws at you.
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