Film Review: 'Suicide Squad'
Opened: 5 August 2016
Cast: Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood, Cara Delevingne
Director: David Ayer
Producers: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
It’s no secret that Warner Bros need Suicide Squad to prove the DC film universe is worth saving from the underwhelming Man of Steel and the missed opportunity of Batman Vs Superman. The style of these two films and their dark tone were a direct contradiction to choosing colourful boyscout Superman as the lead character (he only had 43 lines in BvS!). Suicide Squad is the first movie in this DC Film universe to have a cast of characters that live and thrive in this darkness. As they constantly remind us throughout the movie, they’re the bad guys!
Collected together by government company woman and all round cold hard b!%tch, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), Task Force X is a band of reluctant soldiers made up of the world’s most colourful villains. The premise is simple: The government unleashes something very bad on the world and need to send in some heavy hitters who can sort it out and then be blamed for the whole thing if it goes wrong. Throw in Jared Leto’s new take on the Joker and that’s pretty much the scene set. For some critics this straightforward plot proved to be too simple, though I really don’t understand why. The real story of this film is the individual journeys of the squad members with the exception of Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc, who appear to be victims of the cutting room floor. That said both these characters still add a great deal of charm and dimension. The main focus of the movie is undoubtedly Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, the badass everyman of the squad and the fan-favourite sexy psychopath. These two are the heart and soul of the squad, and the movie.
Cards on the table, I am not the world’s biggest Will Smith fan, but if this is what he is like in ensemble movies then sign me up for the next ten. With so much going on he provides palpable maturity, cynical humour and a centre that exceeds even his performance in I Am Legend. Because of this I was routing for Deadshot from the moment he is taken in. The other side of the coin is Harley Quinn, the adorable and demented girlfriend of the Joker. A truly accurate and full-bodied portrayal of Dr Harley Quinzel and her fall into insanity, fans are going to be head over heels for her. The presence of the Joker in the movie allows for a gradual building of her back-story and comes complete with every possible Easter eggs for those that know what to look for. You may have read some less than favorable reviews about how this movie is sexist, focusing particularly on Harley’s abusive relationship with the Joker and her racy portrayal. Please join me in rolling your eyes at this tedious and basic analysis. Terrible as the truth is, the abuse of women and often their compliance in that abuse goes on every day. It does the world far more good to see this represented in stories than it does to hide it away and pretend the everything is all rainbows and biscuits. At the other end of the scale Suicide Squad portrays Amanda Waller as a woman of power and accomplishment, who is in charge of the whole operation. I fail to see the sexism in that.
While there is much to congratulate director David Ayer on, including all of the above, the excellent way it connects to the other DC movies and how the movie’s events alter the status quo, it’s not all good news.
Like most comic book franchises Suicide Squad suffers from ‘lame opposition syndrome’. While the main villain of the piece is well enough realized, her muscle is a horrendous CGI monstrosity, apparently added late in the production (and it shows). While this addition makes sense, its execution is not great. Cara Delavigne’s turn as the Enchantress is perfectly adequate and occasionally a little chilling, but the depiction of her human host Dr June Moone and her relationship with Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) falls flat, mostly owing to the amount of screen time it could be given.
While this is not the best handling of an ensemble team movie, it has saved the DC cinematic universe from irrelevance and opened the way for other properties to be explored. Batman and Superman failed to hit their mark. Following the success of Amanda Waller and Harley Quinn it falls to Wonder Woman to seal the deal. Sometimes it is better to send a woman to do a man’s job.