Review: Sleeper

Sleeper (1973)
Sleeper poster Rating: 7.3/10 (32,821 votes)
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory
Runtime: 89 min
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Released: 17 Dec 1973
Plot: A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government.

I first watched this film in my early teens, drawn to it initially by the sci-fi aspect, it was the film that introduced me to Woody Allen.  Following watching, and enjoying, the slapstick romp, I moved onto other films in his early career, such as Love and Death, Bananas, Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex, and Manhattan, among many others.  But this was the film that started it all off, and it is one that I have only returned to once since, but recall still enjoying it then, whilst also noticing some of the social and political satire embedded within.

Sleeper is set in a dystopian future, where a health food shop owner from 1973, Miles (played by Woody Allen) is awakened from cryogenic freeze to aid the resistance in infiltrating Project Aries, an unknown project that the oppressive regime are undertaking.  As someone without any records, or identity, he is the perfect choice to undertake the mission.  The only problem is that he’s not the sharpest of tools in the box.  Along the way, Miles finds himself chased by inept security forces, brainwashed, and recruited by freedom fighters as he seeks to stay alive in this strange new world.

“That’s a big chicken!”. Genetic foods are tackled amongst other sci fi concepts.

Early Allen films were filled with farce, slapstick, and japery, and this is no exception.  From the bumbling security forces who have a running gag where they try to fire a rocket launcher, to the antics of Allen as he pretends to be a robot servant, each scene plays like a mini sketch, playing satire to start before ending with crazy antics, usually punctuated with jazz music.  The result is actually quite satisfying, and despite the age of the film the satire and parodies still seem somewhat relevant, so still work to raise a smile now.

Sleeper is a great parody of sci fi, as well as being a throwback to the era of slapstick stars such as Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy, making the humour timeless and universal, and is well worth a watch today.

Allen’s facial expressions alone make many scenes a joy to watch.

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