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Film Review

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021) Review

Neil reviews Warner Bros. THE SUICIDE SQUAD calling the film “nothing short of a DC Comics masterpiece.” In UK cinemas July 30, 2021.

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The Suicide Squad (Empire Magazine/Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Suicide Squad is written and directed by James Gunn. The film stars Margot Robbie, Viola Davis, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, David Dastmalchian, John Cena, Joaquin Cosio, Nathan Fillion, Mayling Ng, Flula Borg, Sean Gunn, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Pete Davidson, Taika Waititi, Alice Braga, Steve Agee, Tinashe Kajese, Daniela Melchoir, Peter Capaldi, Julio Ruiz, Jennifer Holland, Idris Elba and Michael Rooker.

Synopsis

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X. Today’s do-or-die assignment? Assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, Ratcatcher 2, Savant, King Shark, Blackguard, Javelin and everyone’s favorite psycho, Harley Quinn. Then arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese. Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave…and Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate, or Waller herself). If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

Review

When John Ostrander first introduced the modern Suicide Squad back in 1987 it was the era of pulpy, four-colour printing. Task Force X were rendered with the beautiful simplicity of Pop art. But Ostrander also embraced the idea of brutal storytelling. No member of the squad was safe.

With The Suicide Squad, writer and director James Gunn has embraced the same aesthetics. This time around the mission is clear, the stakes are high and so is the body count. Gunn states his intentions in the opening frames and refuses to compromise throughout the entire 2hr 12 minute run time. It’s a bold vision which is underpinned by Gunn’s inherent ability to present engaging-yet-deplorable characters.

Make no mistake, The Suicide Squad doesn’t take a bunch of villains and make them good guys. Gunn’s script stays true to who each of the Squad members are and is relentless in its portrayal. It’s also unbelievably well balanced given the number of characters in play.

The film opens big and stays that way. The opening skirmish to Corto Maltese – a huge nod to Tim Burton’s Batman ’89 – is amazingly executed but perfectly communicates the language of the film to the audience. The stunts are practical, the language is foul and the gore is dialled up to the max. But more than that, none of the characters are safe. Given the runtime of The Suicide Squad it takes Gunn little time to tell us that not even the Harley Quinn’s of this world are entirely safe.

There’s a very natural progression to the story which feel surprisingly refreshing. At times it does feel a little like a scattershot but put in context with the characters it doesn’t feel distracting. What The Suicide Squad never feels however is contrived. Evoking an era of classic war movies, Gunn keeps the story moving constantly without over complicating the endgame. The razor sharp focus on the mission also allows the individual character journeys to flourish.

Given there are over fifteen Task Force X members in The Suicide Squad Gunn does an amazing job of balancing out their screen time. Even those members who don’t survive the full runtime are given a moment to shine. In some cases that moment is their death but I defy anyone to not remember them all by the end.

Conversely it’s difficult to pick a standout addition to the cast. Not because none stands out, but because they ALL do. John Cena quickly proves why Peacemaker will be receiving his own HBO Max series. Idris Elba is likewise a magnet for centre stage whenever he is on screen, proving a comedic ability which is rarely seen in his performances.

Daniela Melchoir brings an irresistible charm to Ratcatcher 2. Alongside David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man the two provide a huge amount of heart to the film. Something I hadn’t anticipated to exist with so much depth or impact. In fact there were moments towards the end of the film where I genuinely teared up.

As proven with his work on Guardians of the Galaxy, Gunn roots for the underdog and that is very much the case here. The big guns aren’t necessarily the ones to save the day. Another example of the bold decision making which makes The Suicide Squad so original and untameable.

It’s not just in front of the camera where the film excels. Shot using the infamous RED digital camera, The Suicide Squad looks amazing. The agility of the technology used allows for some incredible camera work. Teamed with the film’s many practical effects and this feels like one of the most “real” DC movies in decades.

Visual effects are also top notch. Anyone concerned about the rendering on King Shark or Starro need not worry. The production team has carefully used the budget to enhance the visuals of the film. Perhaps the boldest choice here was to ground the Corto Maltese in reality, allowing the characters to bring the fantastical elements.

John Murphy has also crafted a bombastic score for the film. It embraces all the pulpy elements of the script and translates them perfectly in to a sonic gut punch. Similarly to David Ayers Suicide Squad there is a mix of score and popular music. But here the two work much more harmoniously to create the perfect soundscape to enhance the viewing experience.

Verdict

James Gunn has crafted nothing short of a DC Comics masterpiece with The Suicide Squad. Unapologetically brutal, outstandingly funny and thanks to some bold story choices surprisingly gut wrenching.

The Suicide Squad is in UK cinemas from July 30, 2021. In the US catch the film in theatres and on HBO Max from August 6, 2021.


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