Sucker Punch

What is it?

New film by Zack Snyder, expressionist director of 300 and Watchmen. The cast is headed by australian actresses Emily Browning and Abbie Cornish.

The plot is simple, at times even 1-dimensional, however this is not necessarily a bad thing. As Tarantino’s excellent Kill Bill is driven by little more than a desire for revenge, Sucker Punch is fuelled by one for escape. Snyder interweaves a number of mesmerising worlds – insane asylum, brothel and war zone amongst them – in which dangers lurk around every corner and from which the five central characters – Baby Doll, Sweet Pea, Rocket, Blondie and Amber – seek to escape.

What do we think?

A plot, significant character development, or even lively dialogue, are missing yet surprisingly unnecessary in this film. Snyder has fashioned his characters into simple archetypes – golden and unwavering heroine; creepy psychiatrist; dark and greasily evil enemy – and is content to leave their complexities unexplored.

Far more important to this film are the worlds the characters inhabit: here is where the meaning of this film can be found and here is where Snyder shines.

A nestled matryoshka doll of paintings, each world is an exercise in exquisite form and exacting technique. The asylum is soulless and sinister, complete with peeling wallpaper and dirty tiles; the brothel is a riot of burlesque colour and detail; war-torn Paris is populated by destructive clockwork automata, a devastated landscape on the verge of crumbling to dust. All are impeccably fashioned, vivid and intense. Colours are at times subdued, at others super-saturated; the soundtrack maintains a rhythmic, urgent beat; camera angles are dramatic, impossibly sequenced as only CGI can achieve… All are facets of Snyder’s ephemeral, fantastical and above all, masterful composition.

The only lost opportunity of the film is the relationship between worlds: very much like the matryoshka, there are no surprises here – each world nestled snugly within the minutiae of the last. The audience quickly learns its rhythms, settles with ease into the expected transitions between worlds. To our mind, the film would have benefitted from a more interwoven relationship between them, perhaps a spiralling escalation of fantasy or a nuanced blurring of boundaries.

This is no “mind-bending vision of reality”, rather a leisurely stroll through a gallery of powerful yet strangely partitioned contemporary art. A painting stretched across 110 minutes of celluloid canvass: 3.5 stars.

Author: Warwick Mihaly

I am an architect, writer, teacher and father.

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