Director: James Gunn
Stars: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Viola Davis, Peter Capaldi & Sylvester Stallone.
Review by Damocles.
This is pure unadulterated James Gunn and it’s damn cool that he gets to do the film he wants to, on a big budget, without any restrictions.
Can James Gunn do no wrong?
The Suicide Squad is very much a reaction to the original Suicide Squad (2016). It possesses many of the same elements, from an eclectic mix of pop songs, an army of disposable minions, gratuitous violence and CG and a colourful palette of colours for the film’s visuals.
The irony of it all, is that the Suicide Squad in 2016 was a reaction to Gunn’s work on The Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
And now, the director has come to showcase what he is capable of with no studio interference.
The result is a fun, touching, violent and zany film that takes full advantage of its premise.
It is genuinely surprising how much Gunn studied the original film and decided to put things right, with his signature style and bombast.
The songs were no longer random and a dime-a-dozen-cuts but instead seamlessly suited the scenes. The villain at the end of the film, had a strange depth to it, and there is a legitimate reason why there is an army of disposable henchmen for our heroes to fight.
The film is bright, colourful and well-lit, in contrast to the original dark, gritty palette. Characters are only introduced once, but with the same style of seeing them twice, as happened in the first film. In addition, the roster of heroes actually have depth and soul, with surprisingly touching scenes of drama for their backstory.
Then there are the actual selection of heroes, who actually perish often enough to warrant the word Suicide in Suicide Squad. Their costumes are a source of visual delight, unlike the first film and all their abilities complement each other, with the team actually working together well.
I mean, there is even the equivalent of the bar scene from the first film, that is echoed here, but fleshed out properly …
In many ways, I managed to draw a strange parallel to Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker because it felt like the director was reacting to a lot of the problems seen in the previous film, only here, it was done much better and with a film-maker who knows how to have fun with the material given to him.
How else would you explain the choices of D-List super-villains like the completely unknown Bloodsport or Polka Dot Man?
This is what James Gunn excels at, making the bottom-of-the-barrel characters become house-hold names. He instinctively understand their tragic back-story and doesn’t cheapen them, but humanise them where he can and poke fun at them when he can’t.
The pacing in the film is excellent, with much of the plot moving along at a cracking pace, emphasized beautifully with creative and extravagant chapter titles. Not once in the film did I feel the length of the film, with a lot of the characters getting their moment to shine both from an action and emotional standpoint.
The film was also aided by humour that land well and never distract from the characters or plot. In particular, I loved the way how Gunn knew how to twist his humour and violence together that made for excellent comedic moments during heavy action sequences.
From a cinematography perspective, this film might be the most James Gunn experience that has ever been given a 100 million budget. The mise-en-scene is graphic, colourful and has standout comic book moments that make you marvel at how beautifully Gunn frames this film.
During action sequences, the film has an energy behind the camera that emphasizes the gruesome kills as well as how ludicrous they can be. Harley Quinn’s solo fight in particular, have a certain pizazz to them that makes for both visually pleasing and psychologically insightful viewing.
In so many scenes, Gunn loved being creative with his shots, even with simpler flashback sequences. Bus windows became mirrors to the past, toilet seats being scrubbed down with soap was an opportunity for amusing text and 360 pans became punchlines for jokes. There are so many fun tweaks that Gunn put in the film and only showcases his talent as a film-maker and interpreter for these characters.
I particularly loved how they interpreted Bloodshot’s comic ability to teleport weapons to his person, as modular nanotechnology that makes a bigger stick to go boom. The costume of Bloodsport, has one of the coolest masks I’ve seen on film.
But of equal noteworthiness was John Cena’s Peacemaker, whose goofy costume only served to enhance the sheer size of the man himself. There is a hilarious comic-book strong-man vibe to Peacemaker that always made me smile when I saw him on screen. John Cena is finally allowed to be the huge, muscular goof-ball on screen and it is refreshing to see a director acknowledge his talent and natural comic timing.
I must also give a mention to Polka Dot Man, whose worn, lame and affectionate suit will always bring out a smile. He is such a bedraggled character, but he is perfectly portrayed in this film and played with aplomb.
As with many Gunn films, the mixtape used to punctuate key moments in this film is excellent. It ranges from old school rock’n’roll to modern pop-synth and it blends seamlessly with the visuals. Even thought John Murphy’s score is taking a back-seat to Gunn’s soundtrack, it is there enough to accompany the scene well and ramps up appropriately enough to steal moments like Harley & Javelin or the big fight at the end.
Perhaps where the score worked best though, were the scenes between Ratcatcher 2 and her father, with both actors putting in excellent performances to flesh out the emotional heart of the film. At the end of the day, it is Ratcatcher’s story that reflects the theme of the Suicide Squad and how they can all be greater, despite their lowly status.
Overall, The Suicide Squad is a fun, creative romp that shows that the DCEU is on an upward trend. Film-makers are allowed to make their chosen IP their own, like James Wan’s Aquaman, Todd Phillips’ Joker and David F. Sandberg’s Shazam!
This is such a refreshing attitude of trust granted to these talented directors and I think that these films now have the power to rival Marvel’s output.
It will be interesting to see how much DC’s growth can continue after the reception to The Suicide Squad.
Fun, ridiculous, subversive and a little bit grind-house, The Suicide Squad is James Gunn at his best and is a fiendishly good film to while away lockdown hours.
A scene to recall: When the squad infiltrates the camp in the forest and they’re showcasing their powers … that was old-fashioned jungle camp massacre, and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the throwback it was.