The Suicide Squad Review

I’ve made it no secret in the past that I’ve not been a fan of the DCEU overall and the first Suicide Squad film is a clear example of why it doesn’t work. That was a film which suffered from some of the worst editing I’ve ever seen in a film, but it’s also a film that probably wouldn’t have worked even if we got the original version. That said, I was interested in seeing this new film, mainly because of the involvement of James Gunn. I’ve been a fan of Gunn for a while and was interested to see how he handled the characters. There’s no question that this is better than the first one and it’s clear that, for good and bad, this is 100% James Gunn’s vision.

The film focuses on Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad, a team of supervillains recruited by government agent Amanda Waller to undertake black ops missions in order to get time off their prison sentences. In this instance, the team are sent to the nation of Corto Maltese in order to infiltrate a prison that’s home of a top secret project, known as Project Starfish, and destroy it. As the film goes on we see the increased tension and difficulties the team face and the true nature of the mission and its extra-terrestrial origins come to light. Now the big thing that this film gets right over the first one is its tone. This film has a much more consistent tone, having this off-beat, anarchic sensibility that just screams James Gunn. This tone also allows the film to have this great sense of fun throughout, even with the high levels of gore and allows some of the more out there and wild concepts in the third act of the film to make sense in the context of the film, whereas in the first film they didn’t fit. There are also some attempts to give the film a bit more depth, specifically with criticising American foreign policy and how it is willing to support brutal dictatorships, as long as they are profitable for American interests and the gung ho mentality that is fostered in people. I do think there are some pacing issues in the third act, but on the whole this is a very enjoyable and fun film that plays into James Gunn’s strengths as a writer.

The cast though are what make the film stand out as much as it does. Whilst I prefer how the character was handled in Birds of Prey over this film, Margot Robbie continues to show how perfect a casting choice for Harley Quinn she is, having the right vibe for the character and making her a joy to watch. Idris Elba as Bloodsport is a lot of fun as well, interacting well as a straight man off of the other members of the team and being able to flex his comedic skills. John Cena as Peacemaker plays the comically serious persona effectively and the interactions between him and Elba create some of the funniest moments in the film. Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher I found to be the standout performance, bringing a lot of heart to the role and crafting a sympathetic character. David Dasmalchian as Polka Dot Man turns someone who was traditionally a joke character into one filled with pathos and Sylvester Stallone (working with Steve Agee’s motion capture) makes King Shark a comedic highlight. I found Viola Davis to be a lot better as Amanda Waller here than she was in the first film. I always maintained that she was perfectly cast as Waller but the first film’s writing just wasn’t up to her talents. Here, the writing allows Davis to show the calm, controlled, personification of the phrase ‘plausible deniability’ I imagine for Waller, having this air of intimidation and power every time she’s on screen. Peter Capaldi as The Thinker meanwhile is well suited to playing an evil genius and Gunn creates some moments in the third act that allow him to go full Malcolm Tucker. Joel Kinnaman meanwhile is allowed to give Rick Flagg a personality here, making him a much more compelling character than in the first film. There are also fun performances from Nathan Fillion, Sean Gunn, Flula Borg, Michael Rooker, Pete Davidson, Jai Courtney and Alice Braga.

The technical aspects of the film here are also much better than in the first film. To start with the editing here is so much better, being more effective at creating the tone that Gunn is going for rather than being an awkward mish mash of conflicting tones. Gunn also puts his skills at needle drops to good use here. Whereas the first film used incredibly obvious needle drops like House of the Rising Sun and Sympathy for the Devil, Gunn uses more effective music here. I don’t think any of them are used as effectively as the Guardians of the Galaxy films but it is still a good soundtrack. The actions scenes are all well directed, a scene focused on Bloodsport and Peacemaker and one of Harley Quinn escaping from captivity are the highlights, having the right level of comedy for the film. The production design is well done and the costume design takes full advantage of the wild and colourful nature of the DC villains to create some eye popping imagery. The CG I found to be pretty good overall, especially for King Shark, but there are a handful of moments where it looked a bit dodgy to me, it’s hard to explain but there are moments that looked a bit too fake to me.

Overall, saying that this is an improvement over the first film is an understatement. This is a film where there was no compromise made and where James Gunn was allowed to go all in with his vision. There are a few moments where it gets into style over substance, but what Gunn does here is create an incredibly entertaining film with engaging characters that feels 100% fully formed.

My Rating: 4/5

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