- Written & Directed by David Ayer
- Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne
A secret government agency recruits a group of imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions in exchange for clemency, which inevitably leads to chaos.
‘Suicide Squad’ is in cinemas worldwide now!
Another day, another divisive DC Comics film. Many of you will be feeling déjà vu from the release of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ back in March. I know that I certainly am. This review could easily be taken up discussing the critical bias towards Marvel or the fan war that continues to rage on. But that would be unfair to a film this fun. There is no room for Rotten Tomatoes scores here.
‘Suicide Squad’ – much like it’s predecessors in the DCEU – is not a perfect film. But I challenge you to find one that is. ‘Suicide Squad’ is instead an incredibly fun, flashy and bombastic film which shines a spotlight on characters who deserve the attention.
It’s flaws appear to lie in being unsure of how to execute its premise. On the one hand the film has a group of intriguing leads, exploring their backstories could fill an entire film but wouldn’t make for a strong narrative. Every film needs an antagonist and ‘Suicide Squad’ is packed with them. The problem that director David Ayer must have been facing was how he could possibly find the villain in a film full of them.
As a result Enchantress’ villainous motivations are generic and executed in a comic book movie by numbers fashion. Introducing her unnamed brother unfortunately adds to the confusion and only proves that parts of the storyline are undercooked. It feels like Ayer and his team fell short of their goal purely due to the necessity for a normal narrative.
The film excels when it breaks the norm, the opening act features graphics which echo the many trailers and posters used to promote the film. After moving on from a confusing opening few minutes, prior to the logo, the film hits a narrative stride which continues until its third act. Each character is introduced uniquely and brings some brilliantly constructed views in to the wider DC Comics world.
Many complained about the nature of the Justice League members cameos in ‘Batman v Superman’. Similarly many mainstream media outlets have jumped to complain about the inclusion of Ezra Miller’s Flash in ‘Suicide Squad’. Only Batman and Flash appear and both feel organic to the story. As we learn how each villain was imprisoned it’s only natural for Batman to be involved with Deadshot and Harley. Likewise with Captain Boomerang being a Flash villain it was a perfect opportunity to bring him in.
The point that other critics seem to have missed is that where ‘Batman v Superman’ began to open the world of DC Comics ‘Suicide Squad’ successful navigates through the world with great ease. Flash, Batman and even Joker fluidly move in and out of the film. Having these characters reoccur gives a much more comic book aesthetic to the film. The sandbox referred to by producers in past interviews feels real here and it’s exciting. ‘Batman v Superman’ still felt constrained within it’s Metropolis v Gotham setting where ‘Suicide Squad’ feels entirely open and boundless.
Where ‘Suicide Squad’ is most successful is in its characterisation. The ensemble does skew towards the obvious choices of Harley and Deadshot as the story progresses with El-Diablo coming a close third. In introducing the characters there’s a strong balance between them all which is difficult with a cast of this size.
Margot Robbie is the standout as Harley Quinn. Her accent is pitch perfect and her mannerisms make her feel very much like the Harley of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’. She’s obviously a little more PG-13 so her use of language is edgier as is her costume though there are some easter eggs which will have DC Comics fans on the edge of their seats.
Robbie and Jared Leto (Joker) has some good chemistry during their small amount of screen time together. There’s a strong sense of teasing the audience for future ‘Suicide Squad’, ‘Batman’ or the rumoured ‘Harley Quinn’ films in the future.
If anything it is difficult to concentrate on any other character when she is on screen. You will find yourself watching her every move as it’s impossible to know what she will do next but you can guarantee that it will raise a laugh from the audience.
Her backstory is expanded on extensively through flashbacks, it’s a little altered from it’s TV and comic origins but works well on screen and ties her character to Joker even more. I fail to see any of the sexism that has caused so-called controversy in mainstream media. Her character is one of many strong females in the cast which seems anti-sexist to me.
Will Smith also brings a strong portrayal to the film as Floyd Lawton/Deadshot. I’ve never been a fan of his more dramatic work but here he brings a vulnerability as well as a good few laughs. Including his daughter and really focussing on his backstory do a great service to the character which could easily have been cast aside in favour of making him a cold hearted killer.
Smith also has great chemistry with all the other squad members, Harley and Deadshot in particular seem to exude chemistry whenever on screen.
The scene in which he is captured by Batman is a mixed bag, it feels like a ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ moment, particularly with Batman’s entrance. However the fight between the two is filmed a little too tightly to give anything away and it’s all over a little too soon.
It will be interesting to see where his character next appears in the DCEU, be it in a sequel to this film or perhaps an inclusion somewhere in a future ‘Batman’ film. The two characters now have very strong ties in this film world so it seems most likely we will continue to see them together.
Viola Davis is Amanda Waller through and through. The character feels lifted right from the pages of DC Comics. There’s very little warmth to her and she expectedly takes every opportunity to get the job done regardless of the cost. She is omnipresent throughout the film without being in the middle of the action so my only complaint would be that it would be nice to spend some more time with her in the future. Hers is one of the only characters to receive no backstory but that only echoes many of her comic book appearances. I would still be interested to learn how she ended up in her position of power and what her life outside A.R.G.U.S. is like.
Future films will need to spend more time with Katana (Karen Fukuhara), Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Croc (Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje) as there’s a wealth of story to each which isn’t explored fully. All have their moments and are important to the story which is great to see but there’s no doubt that they are secondary to the obvious leads.
Rick Flagg (Joel Kinsman) is a compelling leader but it’s hard for him to standout against the huge personalities of the villains. He is able to cement himself as part of the team by the end of the story but aside from being a sidekick to Amanda Waller it’s difficult to imagine what more can be done with his character in the future.
That leaves us with Jared Leto’s Joker. Many seem disappointed with his lack of screen time. To me that feels like a glass-half-empty response. I found the glimpses in to his character exciting and a huge tease. There are some inconsistencies as Leto tries to decide how psychotic to make the character as his balances mania with mob boss but as an experiment it works.
He comes so close to appearing alongside Ben Affleck as Batman but it never quite comes to pass, instead what we get are a series pre-squad moments between Joker and Harley going back to their patient-doctor relationship at Arkham Asylum. The story builds up their relationship until his inevitable abandonment of her to save himself from Batman. What follows is a twisted love story of how he chases after her once Amanda Wallers drafts her in to the mission.
If recent press is to be believed then many Joker moments have been removed from the film. Certainly the shots of his burnt face whilst wielding a grenade as seen in the trailers are missing but who can say how much has really been taken out or when/if we’ll ever get to see that material.
There’s not enough of him in ‘Suicide Squad’ to make a true judgement of his version of the characters but I would say there’s enough to feel positive and excited for his future in the DCEU.
The story is flawed and there is no denying it but the film makes up for it through use of engaging editing. The non-linear narrative is nothing new and can be fairly distracting and bland but the use of colour and graphics takes the ideas laid out in ‘Deadpool’ and makes it look like they’re high on some of Scarecrow’s psychotropics. To a fault the film steps away from the flashbacks once characters are introduced and then oddly reintroduces them in the films third act. It’s mildly jarring but still feels as though the story naturally required these moments in order to function.
Where the editing of ‘Batman v Superman’ was an issue for so many as it felt the story was lost to the editing the opposite is true of ‘Suicide Squad’. The film takes on such a life that all of the choices feel like they were dictated by the film itself echoing its larger than life characters.
At times the use of the non-score soundtrack can become a little distracting. Scenes merge in to each other through musical transitions but it can be argued that musically each squad member has a heavily defined soundtrack. The score, provided by Steven Price, is equally bombastic but sadly lost in the film. Standout tracks ‘Arkham Asylum’ and ‘Task Force X’ thankfully break through the noise but other quieter moments are lost in the film. I would highly recommend you give the album as listen as musically it’s a standout in a world of generic superhero music and is something akin to what we heard in 2013’s ‘Pacific Rim’.
Special effects are, as expected, outstanding. As with many superhero films it does build towards a rather CGI heavy final battle but where it counts the actors do fight hand-to-hand for real on set so it doesn’t feel like the final battles from ‘Man of Steel’ or ‘Batman v Superman’. I would in fact say the silhouetted fight between the squad members and Enchantress is something a little more unique to the genre of late.
I failed to pick up on the so-called obvious reshoot moments. To me the film felt consistent throughout so I was incredibly happy with the final product. If you felt you spotted a reshoot moment please get in touch and let me know!
‘Suicide Squad’ is great fun. It injects some much needed humour and colour to the DCEU franchise and is definitely not your run-of-the-mill comic book film. It doesn’t feel like the ‘Deadpool’ or ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ clone that some media outlets are claiming. It’s also not worse than the most recent ‘Fantastic Four’. I implore you to ignore the bias towards family friendly superhero films and give this a chance.
There’s a lot to enjoy about ‘Suicide Squad’. Much more than there is to complain about. Go see it, then see it again… and again!
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