Written and directed by: David Ayer
Cast: Will Smith. Jared Leto. Margot Robbie. Joel Kinnaman. Viola Davis. Jai Courtney. Jay Hernandez. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Ike Barinholtz. Scott Eastwood. Cara Delevingne.
Running time: 123 minutes
DC had hoped to instigate a new era of coherence in their movie lineage. Films that exist in the same world and timeline as each other, that would compete with the titan of Marvel cinema who are sat stop their throne of film reels and money simply laughing. Apart from the Nolan Batman trilogy which was by no means perfect, DC have struggled to find a foothold in the attempt at scaling the lucrative heights of comic book movies. After Snyder vomited his visual bile onto our big screens with the simply woeful Superman Vs Batman, Suicide Squad look a more steady and thought through venture. Marvel’s Deadpool had shown that more mature and shameless films equaled profit and that fans were ready for something different in a highly saturated comic based market. The blood thirsty, swear happy hooligans we are. The curtains have lifted and the era of the anti hero is in full swing. DC were ready with the fully established franchise of Suicide Squad a popular comic series, and better than that they had beaten Marvel to the anti-avengers team based movie. Guardians Of The Galaxy was close but the cheery mood and irresistible morals of characters shine through, while Suicide Squad‘s build up promised un-relentless and unapologetic villainy against a grim back drop. The Thunderbolts would be the nearest Marvel comic equivalent and that’s not even been hinted at. This was DC’s chance to pounce.
The premise of the film finds Government operative Amanda Waller who on the back of Superman’s death gets her project greenlit to defend against future threats. While Nick Fury and Bruce Wayne in their respective universes attempt to unite heroes to a common cause, Amanda decides it would be better to manipulate villains to fight….other villains. Giving the reasons that this is “what she does” this still seems a ridiculous plan from the get go. Claiming it will keep them off the radar and if anything goes wrong they can discard members of the team at whim, Waller is instantly more evil than our team and undermines their borderline playful villainy. So the government will not support or try to negotiate with Batman or Superman but will happily play with the raging inferno that is super powered sociopaths? Ok fine, anything to get this stuttering party train in motion. Enchantress and her brother Incubus start building a nameless machine of less than no specifications that you never even clearly see as it’s clearly crafted from shiny death magic. While they brew their ultimate evil-tron 5000 and turn people into their putty men zombies proficient with firearms, the suicide squad are assembled to go into the area and extract a high level ally.
The film actually starts really well, the neon overlays on the setting and cast are clever and striking. The debrief on all your team members are swift yet emotive flashbacks that really fun and even include Batfleck and Flash lending them credibility on their place in the universe. Steven Price does an amazing job with the soundtrack throughout the film, at first it seems like DC were peeking over Marvel’s shoulder during their soundtrack exam and that Guardians Of The Galaxy equation looked damn appealing. It’s easy just to shove retro classic tunes into a film but Price makes them fit in perfectly with the lyrics often matching or contrasting the on screen action, always emphasising the point of the scene. Fights are pretty well choreographed and keep your attention. The cinematography is great with vibrant scenes and visually amazing set pieces such as Joker and Harley’s ACME ritual with is grimly poetic and oddly beautiful. the effects and make up are generally very good with only Killer Croc, Incubus and the enemy soldiers looking a little out of place in this otherwise appealing, stylised carnival of mayhem.
It’s hard to resist the shameless and carefree approach to crime these characters have and their warped honest approach. As Deadshot says at least with him his “cards are on the table”, presumably a bullet ridden table drenched in the blood of his enemies and maybe even his friends. Sadly, to say they re-shot various parts of the film to increase the comedic aspect, there aren’t as many laugh out loud moments as you would expect. Yes sometimes the script does land like an accurate Deadshot volley, but sadly there are also some quips that have less returns than a straightened out boomerang….also known as a stick. Smith fares well as Deadshot, it’s good to see him go full villain at points fighting Batman in front of his daughter which is also creepy role reversal for Bruce Wayne there jumping someone in front of his child. working through some things there Bruce? Awkward… Deadshot does also lie to his daughter but has too many moments of redemption and goes against his any ‘action for any price’ ethos with his ‘missed shot’. It’s annoyingly very ‘Will Smith’ of Deadshot to start showing signs of redemption, and blunts the impact of casting such a well known hero actor in the role of a ruthless villain. Diablo has a achingly over used approach to his abilities but is a well portrayed and ultimately likeable character though his fate is so telegraphed i nearly rolled my eyes out of my head. Joel Kinnaman is cast well, fairly bland character as Flag but amiable and possibly develops the most. Jai Courtney is a mild revelation in his comedic role as Captain Boomerang, doesn’t get the best lines but shows great timing and physical aptitude for comedy.
Waller has some moments of great anti-hero-ness (now a word) but is frustrating in the way she makes our team seem like the good guys. Her merciless killing of fellow agents is a desperate evil move to cement her as the ‘real monster’, it’s very on the nose and shows a lack of confidence in a subtle storytelling. Her appearance as the ally being rescued is a fair plot device and is supposed to be clever but is an antil climax and her torture is pretty forgettable as a means of redemption. Margot Robbie has been tipped to take the world by storm with this performance and it’s good to know she wasn’t just put on as twisted, sour eye candy. She has plenty of background development and is fed all the ‘good’ lines although some fall flatter than Donald Trump’s sentient hair when it’s tired. Robbie is gleefully chaotic but not as resounding as i expected, she does sometimes ham up the accent and some lines even in such a pulpy, over the top film. She does better in the flashbacks as Dr Quinzell and hopefully gets more chance to portray this era of a torn, lovestruck plaything of the Joker. She is labelled as “more violent and unstable” than Joker but then comforts people, makes friends quickly and fantasises about her ‘American Dream’ life.
Leto is passionate and strange as Joker but i’m convinced i had more screen time in that film than he does. He has no iconic lines, scenes and barely impacts the plot until the end making his inclusion a shameless cash in. We get no look at his identity or approach that has been teased and discussed, Leto gets no chance to showcase his interpretation of madness. Also he goes from loving Quinn saying “i’ll do anything for you” and chasing her through hails of bullets, to leaving her to drown? Either you don’t need her so move on or you wouldn’t have to rescue her in the first place if you hadn’t left her behind! A missed opportunity with the joke being on the invested audience, i wasn’t laughing. Katana has an interesting story of heart break that gets no time and renders her pointless. Enchantress is well presented at first and is easily one of the more provoking characters until she turns into the most disappointing villain possible draining her of any appeal. Her power is lazily vague and fluctuates through her battles to give the ‘heroes’ an appropriate amount of chance through their end fight.
After a strong first half which surprised me more than when Scott Snyder remembers that his films apparently need a script, the film begins to struggle. DC’s problem is always that it rushes. Enchantress is thrust into the role of villain with minuscule build up and it’s too damn big. In the animated version they break into Arkham and i couldn’t help but think a smaller plot would have been better. The action becomes disjointed and routine with little point other than just to progress to the next. The mutated foot soldiers are ridiculous much like the aliens in the Avengers but Marvel had several years of build so we were invested enough to suspend disbelief. In this film you can’t just suspend disbelief you have to shove it in a rocket and fire it into the cold of space. The brave generic soldier sets off a bomb right above his own head and the sacrifice is given no time, thought or acknowledgement. RIP you brave soul, it was probably his attempt to get out of a fast sinking film. The interactions between our villains are fun but don’t show progress in their relationships, they just are suddenly mates. Diablo’s claim of having another ‘family’ is laughable forced and it lacks the warm team bonding of Guardians Of The Galaxy, heck even Deadpool bonded with his taxi driver in a more convincing manner. Also they are meant to be the villains but show too many positive qualities and are heavily outweighed on the scales of righteousness by Waller who makes them, positively virtuous by comparison. They struggle to keep the balance and switch from anti heroes to shimmering heroes far too rapidly, it’s jarring and unsatisfying.
All in all this is a solid foundation but it could have been more patient. A smaller mission to create bonds and dynamics between strong characters and let the audience watch these villains grow and be challenged gradually. the evil they face is too large and dramatic meaning the sequel will probably be even more so by the rules of franchise escalation. It also shies away from Flag losing Enchantress which would have been a brilliant moment for a growth spurt of character and add to the hefty price of Diablo, setting this film apart in impact and a bittersweet victory. Sadly the feel good vibes win out and although it keeps June Moone in the mix i struggle to be comforted by this. Again for Dc this highlights a problem of great flair and style but with short-sightedness for the instant gratification instead of building towards a long term established payoff.
The Verdict: This is a flawed but enjoyable film, an improvement from DC but still a missed opportunity. This is a studio that needs to learn from its competitors and more importantly like this film’s characters they need to learn from their mistakes. The suicide Squad shows promise, i just hope it’s not squandered.