Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Cast: Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Joel Kinnaman, Peter Capaldi, Pete Davidson, David Dastmalchian, John Cena, Sylvester Stallone
Cinematographer: Henry Braham
Editor: Fred Raskin, Christian Wagner
The non-Synderverse DCEU is in a special, fluid place currently. There are familiar faces, places, heroes, and villains intermingling with new visions, characters, creative directions, and storytelling styles. From the endearing and joyous Shazam, to the criminally underrated Birds of Prey, the franchise seems to be doing well enough now that it’s not chasing a single MCU-esque vision. That’s a special place to be in, and James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad takes full advantage of the status-quo to deliver a delightfully gory, entertaining, and over-the-top antihero caper.
Without giving too much away, The Suicide Squad finds our myriad (and extended) set of Task Force X anti-heroes taking off from Bell Reve prison on a mission to Corto Maltese, a fictional island nation reminiscent of Cuba. There, they must capture The Thinker (Peter Capaldi) to gain entry into a lab facility named Jotunheim. Their mission is to destroy Corto Maltese’s secret weapon of mass destruction, currently under the control of a newly minted anti-American dictator. The team is led by the reluctant Bloodsport (Idris Elba) – who more than fills out the Will Smith-shaped hole of Deadshot. Other old favourites are back, including Viola Davis’ Amanda Waller, Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn, Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang and Joel Kinnaman’s Colonel Rick Flag. They are joined Savant (Michael Rooker), T.D.K. (Nathan Fillion), Javelin (Flula Borg), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Weasel (Sean Gunn), Peacemaker (John Cena), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone) and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian).
Does that sound like overcrowding? Not when you’re in the safe hands of James Gunn. He understands the source material and what a ‘Suicide Squad’ truly means – so within the first 15 minutes, you’re looking at carnage that makes you laugh while also keeping the stakes high. While the overall plot is straightforward and plays like a video game with multiple (sometimes hilarious) side-quests; Gunn keeps the tempo running by ensuring that no one is safe, not even your favourites. Personally, that’s what sets The Suicide Squad apart from other superhero fare. I imagine James Gunn doing his best Thanos, ‘No more resurrections’ impression while writing the script.
The breakout performances, amid all the adrenaline, laughs and blood come from Daniela Melchior (Ratcatcher 2), her rat Sebastian, John Cena (Peacemaker) and David Dastmalchian (Polka-Dot Man). While Daniela’s earnest, childlike performance is both endearing and heartfelt, it’s David’s turn (and his accompanying visual gag) that will have you in splits while simultaneously making you empathise with his suffering. Of course, there’s King Shark – who is the answer to: How would the child of Hulk and Groot behave in a R-Rated DC movie? Stallone’s mo-cap King Shark chews every scene he is in.
There are, however, some things that The Suicide Squad doesn’t do well, one of which is its editing. The quick cuts and time jumps are sometimes jarring, especially when we’re jumping from side quests to the main quests, and to flashbacks over two hours. It’s a minor gripe, and the movie more than compensates for it in other departments. I could have done with more screentime for Peter Capaldi’s The Thinker as well, but that’s just me.
James Gunn brings his skills as a writer and director to bear on The Suicide Squad. With genuine performances to back his vision, it’s not only an entertaining, violent, and visually impressive entry in the DCEU pantheon, but also a respectful and necessary one. The movie understands its source material, the audiences’ expectations and delivers something that respects what came before it, while also breaking new ground for the franchise. It makes you hopeful for Flashpoint and The Batman.
Also, Sebastian from The Suicide Squad > ANThony from Ant-Man. There, I said it.