Sucker Punch

on Sunday, April 3, 2011

What do you get when you put five hot young things in skimpy attire that comprises of little more than mini-skirts, chaps, sequins, fishnets and some mind-boggling weaponry? Would you believe me if I said you get the first important piece of Hollywood entertainment for this year? We are approaching the end of March which (in recent Hollywood parlance) means that the blockbuster spectaculars released each week are going to get bigger and noisier. And while Sucker Punch does not lack for either spectacle or showmanship, it possesses that all-too-rare commodity in a big budget action spectacular these days -- a story. Right from that bravura opening sequence underscored by a new version of the Eurythmics' song Sweet Dreams (sung here by the movie's leading lady Emily Browning herself) one gets the sense that this may not be your average chicks-with-guns action flick. The plot outline is simple -- Baby Doll (Browning) has been placed in a mental institution. She has five days to make her escape and she can only do so by constructing fantasy worlds that mesmerize her captors while her accomplices attempt to steal the five objects required to facilitate their escape from the institution. In her adventures she is accompanied by Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Amber (Jamie Chung) and Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens). To the well-versed cine-goer, elements from blockbuster films will seem to coalesce during this movie's runtime but to simply draw Quentin Tarantino's attention to the fact that there is a new cine remixer in town would be to do director Zack Snyder a disservice. Influences from the works of Tim Burton, Peter Jackson, Timur Bekmambetov, Christopher Nolan, and Martin Scorsese, various martial arts movies, comic book artists like Ashley Wood as well as the manga and anime worlds (and many more) are apparent throughout the film's running time. But the director puts it all together in a way that is fresh and exciting. That Snyder is unafraid of computer graphics also lends a certain anti-gravity to his shots and compositions, thereby making it easier to believe that five preening 20-somethings can transform themselves into dynamic action babes. Movies like this are not usually designed for any of the main cast members to shine as actors. Even so Oscar Isaac delivers a superbly creepy performance as Blue, the villain of the piece. The air he brings to the role is on par with the quiet menace of the villain in Se7en or The Usual Suspects. All the young women play their parts well and even though they are often dressed in outlandish attire and required to spout dialogue that conforms to two divergent realities, you won't find any Ewan McGregor-style smirking throughout Sucker Punch. There is no indirect way to say this -- this movie has to be watched on a big screen, it doesn't matter whether it is (eventually) home theatre or an actual cinema screen but I guarantee you this -- those that don't take in the sheer scope and scale of this movie on the biggest available screen will regret it. The scale of the battles, the dynamism of the camera work (and the accompanying digital trickery) needs to be seen to be believed. Especially for those who enjoyed Inception this one will be a fun return to the theatre of the mind. Adding to that enormous visual scale is the fantastic score by Tyler Bates and Marius De Vries, which features original music and inspired new arrangements of popular songs. Sucker Punch is not a cheery film. But then again director Zack Snyder has made a reputation for himself by bringing dark-themed films to the big screen to great success. The biggest compliment I can pay the director is to say that after having watched Sucker Punch, I am really looking forward to seeing what he does with Superman. Until the man in the red cape takes flight again, this fine example of blockbuster filmmaking will have to do. And it will do very well, thank you very much.

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