Top 150 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2020: #41. Prisoners of the Ghostland – Sion Sono
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Despite being a perennial festival presence, some may be wondering what’s happened to Japanese provocateur Sion Sono, who usually has somewhere between two and five new projects a year, based on his output from the past decade (it doesn’t help his 2018 title The Bastard and the Beautiful only opened in Japan and received very little festival play, while Netflix debuted his 2019 The Forest of Love to little fanfare in October). But Sono seems poised to make a greater splash in 2020 with his English language debut, a Japanese/US co-production headlined by Nicolas Cage titled Prisoners of the Ghostland (which Cage himself has defined as ‘the wildest movie he’s made to date’). Written by Aaron Hendry and Reza Sixo Safai, the project is produced by Michael Mendelsohn of UPCM/Patriot Pictures. A fun supporting cast consists of Sofia Boutella, Ed Skrein, Bill Moseley, Young Dais and Tak Sakaguchi, announced after the inclusion of Imogen Poots.
Sono has appeared in Berlin with Strange Circus while his widely regarded 2008 masterpiece Love Exposure won the FIPRESCI Prize out of the Forum there. In 2005, he competed for Karlovy Vary’s Crystal Globe with Noriko’s Dinner Table and won the People’s Choice Award out of Midnight Madness at 2013 TIFF with Why Don’t You Play in Hell? Sono competed once for the Golden Lion in Venice with 2011’s Himizu (read review) and played twice in Horizons, with 2010’s Cold Fish and 2013’s Who Don’t You Play in Hell?
Gist: Cage is Hero, a notorious criminal dispatched to save a young woman who has disappeared into a dark, supernatural universe. Together, they must ‘break the curse that binds them’ to escape the insidious ghosts there (with Cage donning what sounds like a military version of Musidora outfit).
Release Date/Prediction: After dealing with an unexpected health issue, principal photography finally commenced in November in Japan. Sono, like his star Nic Cage, can be a bit hard to predict with where and when they’ll land on any given project. Their latest seems primed for a midnight slot at a major fest, with Cannes seeming unlikely. Our money is on TIFF’s Midnight Madness program, 2020.