Director: David Ayer
Runtime: 2 hours
Starring: Viola Davis, Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Ben Affleck, Joel Kinnaman, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Shailyn Pierre Dixon, Scott Eastwood
So, it’s 3am and I’m awake and sitting at my laptop. Most people would be thinking of hitting the hay, and no I don’t have a bad case of insomnia, but I’ve just got home from a midnight screening of possibly the most anticipated movie of the year, Suicide Squad, and I have plenty of thoughts about it flying about my head. Chief among them is bewilderment. Bewilderment at the fact that this movie has been torn apart by critics, when I actually quite liked it! All week, you couldn’t read a newspaper, listen to the radio, or browse the web without coming across a scathing review of this film. But trust me, it is nowhere near the sexist, gun obsessed, mess that many have said it is, and deserves a much higher rating than it currently sits at (27% at the time of writing) on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. I mean sure, of the superhero movies we have seen this year, it doesn’t reach the heights soared by Captain America: Civil War. But neither does it sink to the dismal depths of its predecessor Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. If anything, Suicide Squad deserves to be commended for steadying the ship, after that film threatened to derail the franchise before it even had a chance to get off the starting block. And the reason it does this, is because it blends action with a dark sense of humour, and crucially doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Following on from the death of Superman in the previous film, Suicide Squad sees Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) setting up a task force of dangerous criminals, to carry out high risk missions for the United States government under the supervision of Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and his personal bodyguard Kitana (Karen Fukuhara). They are seen as disposable assets; if anything goes wrong, they blame it on the criminals, clean up the mess and move on. In order to make them cooperate, the team are offered reductions to their individual sentences at Bell Reve penitentiary, and more seriously, have a bomb implanted in their necks which can be triggered should any member of the team try to defect or rebel against Flag.
The team consists of some of the most recognisable villains from the DC Comics Universe, including most notably, Deadshot (Will Smith), an expert assassin and marksman who is struggling to do right by his daughter (Shailyn Pierre Dixon), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the deranged ex-psychiatrist lover of Batmans most famous adversary, The Joker (who also makes an appearance played by an on form Jared Leto). The team is not the only ones under Wallers control however. Dr. June Moone (Cara Delevingne), an archaeologist and girlfriend of Rick Flag, has become the unwilling host of an ancient entity know as the Enchantress, who possesses devastating powers. When Waller loses control of the Enchantress, Task Force X are deployed to contain the situation in Midway City.
This films greatest strength are its characters and the Hollywood heavyweights portraying them. Davis, Smith and Robbie are the standouts. Davis invigorates every scene she is in, creating a formidable government operative in Waller who positively exudes confidence and power, and who is every bit as capable a leader as her Marvel Cinematic Universe counterpart Nick Fury is. She is such a compelling character in that she is essentially supposed to be one of the good guys in a sea of bad guys, but she makes morally reprehensible decisions to get the job done. Will Smith is excellent as the cocky Deadshot, which is great to see considering the reaction to his casting was a little lukewarm at best. He also contributes to some of the hilarious one liners here, and really brings a lot to the emotional core of the film in the scenes involving the assassins daughter. But while both Davis and Smith are solid, it is Australian beauty Margot Robbie who truly steals the show as Harley Quinn. Quinn has been a firm fan favourite since her introduction in the 90’s animated Batman series, and Robbie’s portrayal is so on point, it is as if the character has simple walked out of the cartoon and into a living, breathing unpredictable criminal. Robbie also adds depth to the character, as we see glimpses of the old normal psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel before her love affair with her charge The Joker, break through now and again. Much talk has been made about the character and many have deemed her handling in the film as sexist, from her skimpy costume to her at times abusive relationship with her “puddin'”. But people who are critical of these aspects are ignoring the fact that the character is actually portrayed as being more than capable of defending herself and keeping up with the male characters, and a skimpy costume isn’t going to change that. We also get a nod or two to her classic costume by the way, which was pretty cool. Of course, I couldn’t mention Harley Quinn and not mention her lover. The Joker has always been a fan favourite, and Heath Ledger really set the bar high with his portrayal in the Christopher Nolan directed The Dark Knight. While I don’t think Leto reached those heights, he is still mesmerizing and menacing, and his portrayal is a more classic take on the character than Ledgers was. Sadly, he isn’t in the film all that much, and much like Wonder Woman in Batman V Superman, it serves mostly as an introduction, and also to provide some context to Harleys storyline. It will be exciting to see where Leto takes the character in the future.
While Deadshot and Harley are the main players of the squad, the others have some memorable moments, despite not being used as much. Most notable of these probably is Jai Courtney for his portrayal of Aussie bank robber Captain Boomerang. He provides some laugh out loud moments, and hopefully this will be the movie that sees audiences take Courtney to their hearts, as I think he is a great actor that gets more criticism than he does praise. The only real casting misfire is that of Cara Delevingne as June/Enchantress. While there is no denying that the characters design is incredible (although the sexist argument has been thrown its way as well), Delevingne is just not right for the part. She feels too young to play the character of a Doctor of Archaeology and her performance as the Enchantress is cringe inducing at times. Also, she is supposed to be in a relationship with Rick Flag, but the pair have zero chemistry and it’s kind of impossible to root for them as a couple. I’m not saying that Delevingne is a bad actress, far from it, but she was miscast here. The part called for someone closer in age to Joel Kinnaman, and who has a distinct regal quality that could be applied to the Enchantress.
The films plotting and story telling have taken a battering, and to be fair, I can see what some people are talking about. At certain points, random scenes follow each other but don’t gel completely. Case in point, the films opening sequence. While it is essentially there to introduce us to the three main players of the movie before the title screen, it feels a little disjointed. It moves from Deadshot, to Harley Quinn, to Amanda Waller, and then back again through a secondary introduction of all three characters straight away after the title screen has passed, before we meet any of the other characters. While it isn’t something that put me off, I can see why some people may not take to it, as it feels like going in circles just when you would be expecting the film to advance. Although to its credit, this doesn’t happen often. Also, the films tendency to use flashbacks was a little jarring on one or two occasions. While it gave some great character back story, other times it felt like you were being dragged away from the action of the present. But neither of these points are a deal breaker in terms of enjoying the film, in my opinion anyway. They, along with the sloppy portrayal of Enchantress are the only things that really jump out as faults for me. Some reviews have cited the film for glorifying gun use, but it doesn’t. Not in the slightest. It has no more guns and violence than any other action film, and certainly doesn’t champion there use. And a lot of the time, the characters fight hand-to-hand or with other weapons, so I feel that criticism is misguided.
Ultimately, I really liked Suicide Squad. It’s like taking the Avengers and corrupting it with the dark humour of Deadpool and the misfit team vibes of Guardians of the Galaxy. It will in my opinion repair some of the damage done by Batman V Superman and steady the course for the DC universe going forward, and it done so by blending trilling action with a sense of not taking itself so seriously (which BVS lacked), and excellent performances from some of Hollywoods biggest stars today. Also stick around until mid way through the credits to catch a scene that teases the future of the franchise. I hope you enjoy the film when you get to see it, and feel free to leave a comment to air you views if you like.