James Gunn takes DC Comics’ second-rate supervillains and gives them the first-rate treatment in the spectacular The Suicide Squad.
The film follows a rag-tag bunch of supervillain misfits, forced to work together to take down a potentially cataclysmic alien threat while toppling a military régime at the same time. Straying from the mission would mean immediate death at the hands of US Government Agent and puppet-master Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), who’ll stop at nothing and sacrifice anything and anyone to get the job done.
The Squad’s new leader, Bloodsport (Idris Elba), is one such example, who reluctantly joins the team after his young daughter is threatened with jail time should he refuse. His criminal compatriots include returning members Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) alongside several newcomers, including the highly patriotic Peacemaker (John Cena), amongst many others. It’s a huge team of quirky disposable characters, most of whom are happy to be there to kill some bad guys, making for a spirited, violent adventure.
It’s evident from the film’s opening that director James Gunn is having a ball with the characters and that audiences are set for a wild ride. Gunn doesn’t hold back on the violence, which is one of the film’s unique selling points, followed by its humour and uniquely colourful cast of characters. Despite the surface-level thrills and shock factor, the director finds time to develop and humanise the characters, adding an emotional depth that can be hard to find in some of these spectacle films.
Each of the principal characters receives an intriguing backstory and while they’re not all entirely fleshed out, the ones that are, resonate, allowing the audience to connect with these flawed characters. It’s a testament to James Gunn, who also wrote the film, to be able to take these lesser-known characters and make them relatable to the point where they’re even more likeable than their mainstream superhero counterparts. Gunn uses humour to achieve that goal, and his writing is just oddball enough for it to work, bringing plenty of laughs along the way.
With so many different characters and personalities, the film finds a way to balance their development with epic action set pieces and humour, which is no easy feat. It’s done near-perfectly, but having so many characters comes with the price of a lengthy runtime, which is standard for a DCEU film, but this one seems to suffer more for it. There are times, especially towards the end, where you’d wish they’d get to the climax faster. It’s a minor flaw, but there’s only so much relentless action you can take, and it makes it harder to warrant repeat viewings.
Despite this, The Suicide Squad should be considered a crowning achievement for director James Gunn, who’s produced one of the best DCEU films to date. The film is a blast from the first exploding head to the last, with everyone involved in the production seemingly having the time of their lives.
James Gunn specifically filled The Suicide Squad with obscure and unknown villains since he felt that was more faithful to the Squad in the comics: “I wanted to stick with John Ostrander’s original vision of mostly second-rate antagonists. There’s an innate tragic element to supervillains who aren’t even that good at being bad.”