Suicide Squad finally arrives in cinemas amid poor early reviews and bad word-of-mouth. Going in with lowered expectations may certainly help, but I found Suicide Squad to be a very entertaining film full of stunning spectacle, good humour and strong performances. There are issues of course, but given the landscape that DC now finds themselves in, I actually think that this makes Suicide Squad’s achievements even more impressive as a result.
So before going into the review of the film itself, it’s worth noting a few things. DC and Warner Brothers find themselves in a very difficult position. Having delivered a slew of disappointing films over the last 10 years (Superman Returns, Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, Man of Steel, Batman v Superman), their handling of DC’s impressive roster of heroes and villains hasn’t been a success. With the exception of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Watchmen, their cinematic endeavours have largely been frustrating.
Their constant lack of direction and an incomprehensible desire to not build on a solid foundation to their universe (as rivals Marvel have so successfully achieved), has created a series of movies that neither cater to the die-hard comic fans nor deliver something adequate to the general public. My utter disappointment in Batman v Superman seems to be the opinion largely shared by the viewing public. So we find ourselves in a situation where the DC universe is being fast-tracked too quickly, we are mowing through classic comic storylines at an alarming rate and there isn’t time (in the mind-set of Warner Bros at least) to deliver decent back-story to all of their characters a la Marvel. Given this specific situation, it amplifies the successes of Suicide Squad, making it all the more enjoyable.
I find director David Ayer extremely hit and miss. How can the same guy who made End of Watch deliver such a risible action film as Sabotage? Thankfully Suicide Squad is one of his better films, with a glorious visual style that really gets into the tone of the characters. We are introduced to Amanda Waller (an impressively despicable Viola Davis), the head of a covert government organisation who is looking to put together a team of Meta-Humans to do their bidding in a post-Superman world that’s living in constant fear.
Enter Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Deadshot (Will Smith) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). They are all serving serious prison time and are offered the chance to reduce their sentences if they agree to fight. None do, but after some persuasive threats the super-villains form an unlikely team that are sent out to neutralise a supernatural enemy that threatens to destroy the planet.
So far so good then – the premise is simple, with a group of villains (each with their own agendas) forced to club together for their mutual benefit. Its simplicity is exactly what this film (and the larger DC universe) needed right now. Ayer delivers each characters back-story in clever bite-sized segments that look amazing and have a killer soundtrack. These are easily the best sequences of the film and (given the parameters we find ourselves in) are a brilliant way to thrust the audience directly into this story, giving them the facts that they need to really get behind these characters.
Batman plays a small but pivotal role in Suicide Squad. He has a handful of scenes but they are integral to filling-in some narrative blanks with Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, The Joker and mainly Deadshot. Affleck is brilliant in the role and really is the brightest spark DC have at the moment. After all of the great reception that Ben Affleck’s incarnation is receiving, I fully expect the release of his standalone Batman film to be brought forward. It seems silly not to, especially with Affleck on directing and writing duties, and an Arkham Asylum-centric storyline rumoured to be the focus of the film (which sounds amazing).
So using Batman well, we are introduced to Deadshot. Make no mistake, this is a Will Smith-led film, and he delivers a great performance that easily makes Suicide Squad his best film in years. His assassin storyline is solid and he’s front and centre of some amazing set-pieces. Killer Croc looks great and is suitable scary and it’s nice to see Jay Hernandez back on the big screen, this time as Diablo who has a fascinating back-story that is slowly revealed as the film progresses. Jai Courtney finally makes a good film and he is fantastic as the comic relief of the team. Joel Kinnaman has to reign in all of these big personalities as Rick Flag, a patriot soldier who is tasked by Waller to keep them all in-check. Kinnaman does a good job here, as do Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood, Common, Jim Parrack and Ike Barinholtz in supporting roles.
Harley Quinn is the real star of the film though and Margot Robbie does an exceptional job here. Batman is used in a key Joker/Harley scene that explains how she ended up in prison, and there are snapshots of her past cleverly scattered throughout the film. These scenes offer a tantalising glimpse into the Joker/Harley dynamic and really delivers something special. There’s even a montage scene that nods in the direction of the classic Alex Ross artwork of a suited Joker and Harley, raising demand for a Joker/Harley spin-off film of their own. Robbie hands in a very memorable performance that’s full of craziness, passion and guile and she oozes sex appeal at every given opportunity.
Robbie’s dynamic with Jared Leto’s Joker is fantastic too. They both really nail down the twisted relationship that the Joker and Harley share and bring an interesting version of these characters to the big screen. Leto’s Joker is a truly frightening individual and one that we’ve never seen onscreen before. He will have his detractors but I think Leto has done a great job in making the role different. After such iconic performances from Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and even Mark Hamill in Batman: The Animated Series, this Joker feels fresh and that’s what we need right now, not a rehash. I doubt anyone will better Ledger’s performance so all I want now is someone to bring something different to the table and Leto does that. You never know what he will do next and this unpredictability makes Leto’s Joker a fine antagonist to Affleck’s Batman.
Cara Delevingne is the weakest link in Suicide Squad, despite having some amazing scenes. Her transformation from June Moone into the witch Enchantress is stunning to see – the effects are especially brilliant at the start of the film. As the film progresses, so does the importance of her character to the story at-large, but the effects become increasingly terrible and her acting sadly follows suit. She doesn’t have the emotional weight to pull off the role convincingly.
Suicide Squad is certainly the best DC film we’ve had in a long time so hopefully this marks a large turn in fortune for their entire cinematic universe. The finale could have used some work but the simple set-up, the colourful (and very diverse) characters, the inclusion of Batman in key scenes and the general tone of the film means that Suicide Squad is a success. The recent SDCC footage reveal for the upcoming Justice League movie looked ok and Gal Gadot’s solo Woman Woman film should prove to be a winner, so for 2017 at least, DC should be ok if they learn from their mistakes. Suicide Squad is a hell of a lot of fun, has some amazing visuals, an electric soundtrack, great performances and a simple but effective premise. I would certainly welcome a sequel with these characters, and hope that others are willing to give this film its due credit.
Cast: Margot Robbie, Will Smith, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Ben Affleck, Karen Fukuhara, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Joel Kinnaman, Scott Eastwood, Common, Jim Parrack, Ike Barinholtz Director: David Ayer Writer: David Ayer Released By: Warner Bros Certificate: 15 Duration: 123 mins Release Date: 5th August 2016