Sucker Punch is a 2011 action-fantasy thriller film, directed by Zack Snyder and co-written by him and Steve Shibuya. It is Snyder’s first film based on an original script. The film stars Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, and Oscar Isaac. The storyline follows the fantasies of a young woman who is committed to a mental institution, as she makes a plan to escape the hospital before suffering a lobotomy.
In the 1960s, a 20-year-old girl nicknamed “Babydoll” (Emily Browning), is institutionalized by her sexually abusive stepfather (Gerard Plunkett) at the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane after she is blamed for the death of her younger sister. Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), one of the asylum’s orderlies, is bribed by Babydoll’s stepfather into forging the signature of the asylum’s psychiatrist, Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), to have Babydoll lobotomized, so she cannot inform the authorities of the true circumstances leading to her sister’s death. During her admission to the institution, Babydoll takes note of four items that would be integral if she were to attempt an escape.
In the seconds prior to being lobotomized, Babydoll retreats into a fantasy world in which she is newly arrived in a brothel owned by Blue, whom she envisions as a mobster. She befriends four other dancers – Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jena Malone), and Rocket’s sister, Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish). Dr. Gorski is envisioned as the girls’ dance instructor. Blue informs Babydoll that her virginity will be sold to a client known as “The High Roller” (Jon Hamm). The “High Roller” is actually the doctor scheduled to perform the lobotomy. After saving Rocket from a rape attack from the Cook, Gorski encourages Babydoll to perform an erotic dance, during which Babydoll fantasizes she’s in feudal Japan, meeting the Wise Man (Scott Glenn). After she expresses her desire to “escape”, the Wise Man presents Babydoll with weapons. He tells her that she would need to collect five items in order to escape: a map, fire, a knife, a key, and a fifth, unrevealed item that would require “a deep sacrifice”. Before parting ways, she is confronted by three demonic samurai giants, which she defeats. As her fantasy ends, she finds herself back in the brothel, her dance impressing Blue and other onlookers.
Inspired by her vision of the Wise Man, Babydoll convinces her friends to prepare an escape. She plots to use her dances as a distraction while the other girls obtain the necessary tools. During each of her dances, she imagines adventurous events that mirror the secretly ongoing efforts. These episodes include infiltrating a bunker protected by steam-powered World War I zombie German soldiers to gain the map (mirrored by Sweet Pea entering Blue’s office and copying a map of the brothel-institution); storming an Orc-infested castle to cut two fire-producing crystals from the throat of a baby dragon (mirrored by Amber stealing a lighter from the breast-pocket of a client); and boarding a train and combating mechanized guards to disarm a bomb (mirrored by stealing a kitchen knife from the belt of the brothel’s cook). During the last of these fantasies, Rocket sacrifices herself to save Sweet Pea and is killed when the bomb detonates, which is paralleled in a fight with the cook where he fatally stabs Rocket while she’s trying to protect her sister.
Blue overhears Blondie relaying Babydoll’s plan to Madam Gorski. After discovering the gruesome scene around the cook in the kitchen, he has the grieving Sweet Pea locked in a utility closet and confronts the remainder of the girls backstage, proceeding to “make examples” by shooting Amber and Blondie. He then attempts to rape Babydoll, but she stabs him with the kitchen knife and steals his master key. Babydoll frees Sweet Pea, and the two start a fire so that, as a result of the fire alarm, the institution’s checkpoint doors unlock. The two manage to escape into the courtyard, where they find their way out blocked by a throng of gentlemen. Babydoll deduces that the fifth item needed for the escape is in fact herself. Despite Sweet Pea’s protest, she insists on sacrificing herself by distracting the visitors, thus allowing her friend to slip away.
The scene cuts back to the asylum in which the surgeon (Hamm) has just performed Babydoll’s lobotomy. The surgeon is confused by Babydoll’s expression and starts to question Dr. Gorski as to why she authorized the procedure. It is also revealed that the happenings in her dream world also happened in the hospital (stabbing an orderly, starting a fire, and helping another girl escape). Gorski realizes that Blue has forged her signature, and summons the police, who apprehend Blue as he attempts to sexually assault a lobotomized Babydoll. While being led away, Blue shouts that it’s the stepfather they want. When Blue is arrested, Babydoll closes her eyes and imagines Sweet Pea’s escape. The final scene is at the bus station, where Sweet Pea is stopped by police as she tries to get on a bus to Fort Wayne. She is rescued by the bus driver (the Wise Man), who misleads the police.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this film: