Directed By James Gunn
Starring – Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena
The Plot – Supervillains Harley Quinn (Robbie), Bloodsport (Elba), Peacemaker (Cena) and a collection of nutty cons at Belle Reve prison join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X as they are dropped off at the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.
Rated R for strong violence and gore, adult language throughout, some sexual references, drug use and brief graphic nudity
– Imaginative style. With the dreary drab of the 2016 original weighing down the fantastical immersiveness of this world established inside of the comics, the sequel, led by Gunn, goes in an entirely different direction, with three-dimensional eye-popping radiance that goes far beyond the typical color grading used to establish a particular identity within its cinematic universe. Here, Gunn and company hurl as much vibrancy and coordinating contrast to the many wardrobes, backdrops, and character designs to give it radiance and effectiveness in visually channeling the mental frailty and bigger than life personalities of its ensemble. In addition to this, the camera movements from Gunn and longtime MCU cinematographer Henry Braham are swift and seamless in their execution, granting an experimental but coherent touch to the many action sequences that rattle the screen with constant intensity, all the while illustrating a creative ambition that depicts these conflicts with adaptable interpretation despite the unorthodox appeal of their nature. Finally, the bookmarks of the storytelling itself not only persist with an air of creativity to the way their visual text materializes on-screen, but also pays homage to the chapteresque nature of comic book enveloping, complete with intentional foreshadowing and title screens that enthusiastically anticipate the inevitable.
– Lighthearted personality. Would you expect anything less in a James Gunn movie? Not only is the juvenile humor presented in the film accommodating to the instability of the characters and personalities that it springs from, but it also keeps the tempo of the experience a fun and engaging one throughout two hours of run time. What’s most surprising is that some of the visual sight gags were just as effective as the sharp-tongued dialogue written by Gunn, unraveling an unapologetically care-free emphasis that has unfortunately been missing from comedies since Deadpool locked and loaded through an array of properties and inside jokes to break the fourth wall tremendously. “The Suicide Squad” manages the same feat, but in a way that doesn’t take away from the dramatic urgency of the conflict at hand, allowing for many seamless tonal transitions along the way that keeps this feeling like one continuous entity inside of this world of chaos and utter devastation.
– Riveting action. I would say that this sequel, if you can even call it that, keeps a majority of its focus, for better or worse, on the unraveling of its narrative, but in between there are a series of compelling set pieces and ruthless physicality that tests the limits of gravity, as well as the boundaries of vulnerability of these characters accordingly. Without question, my favorite is the chaotic crumbling of a massive scientific headquarters during the movie’s climax, just for the way Gunn utilizes as much of the aspects of the environment to constantly change the balance in the fight for power. However, the entirety of constructs here are every bit creative as they impactful, resonating an impeccably echoing sound design and monumental size for scale that reflects the weight and influence of its alien antagonist. Every blunt blow is easily detectable to the evolving experimentation of the cinematography, and the vast improvement of solid editing adds a continuity to the complexity of many characters involved that flows as smoothly and transferrable as possible for cinematic lens.
– Pivotal characterization. For Harley Quinn alone, this is the most honest and psychologically conscious effort of any of the three films that her character has ever been a part of, but for everyone else, there’s just as much attention paid to development that makes each of them vitally important to the ever-changing dynamic of the mission at hand. For my favorite character, Elba’s Bloodsport, there’s no shortage of heart and ensuing stakes hanging in the balance of his motivation to join such a band of misfits. Likewise, the constant psychological trauma of the Polka Dot-Man, and the complexities associated with patriotism in the moral fiber of The Peacekeeper instill much more depth to supporting characters, who in the previous film would’ve been met with one-off sequences of capabilities and backstory, and nothing more, but here remain a vitally important circumstance to the series of combustible elements that we expect to, and eventually do, explode before our very eyes. It allows Gunn’s version of the squad to persist as an ensemble effort over one that is a purely just a vehicle for one or two respective characters, and offers something for everyone in the diversity of its target audience.
– Boisterously rich music. Gunn’s music video style of visual storytelling is firmly on display throughout a series of musical montages complimented by some of the best work inside of a soundtrack and musical score that I have heard in 2021. If you know the work of Gunn during his time on “Guardians of the Galaxy”, this is certainly nothing new, but the work of composer John Murphy brings with it the most emotionally expansive and genre-eclectic embodiment that would make the previously mentioned film cry with jealousy. For the tracks littered vicariously throughout the soundtrack, we’re audibly seduced with artists like The Pixies, Kansas, The Fratellis, and most notably Johnny Cash immediately introducing us to Gunn’s new element of atmosphere with “Folsom Prison Blues”. The contrast to this is the instrumental compositions from Murphy bringing no shortage of wonderment and transcendental radiance to everything we’re interpreting. My favorite is easily “Ratism”, a stirring medley combining enough guitar, piano, and especially choir hymns to the resolution of the conflict to marry the imagery with overwhelming layers of triumph and tragedy accordingly to make the occasion feel monumental.
– Hefty stakes. Another of the big improvements for this film not only on its predecessor, but in the superhero genre as a whole, is the abundance of stakes and untimely character deaths that add an element of unpredictability that should go without saying for the genre, but rarely ever does. It’s clear that Gunn has no reservations about disposing of certain characters constantly throughout the narrative, nor the advantages of his R-rated enveloping, both of which presented with visceral consequence on the way to stitching tremendous computer generated effects work for the film’s production. On top of all of this, its defines meaning for the term “Suicide Squad” itself, making this feel like a point of no return mission where these typically barbaric villains have a chance at redemption by paying the ultimate price, with only ten years off of their prison sentence for their benefit. If more superhero films were like this, it would articulate the danger and spontaneity associated with such a task, but as it stands “The Suicide Squad” stands alone as the kind of fearless cinema that others should strive to be. Never thought I’d say that sentence.
– Diverted tropes. To anyone who often reads my work, you know I despise the “Three days earlier” trope that has become almost commonplace in mainstream cinema of all genre, shapes, and sizes, contemporarily, and while that element is unfortunately a part of “The Suicide Squad”, it is conjured in a way that adds something unique to the storytelling. Without spoiling anything, I will say that this film often presents the meat of its material at the forefront, and then rewinds to show why such an event is even more impactful. This not only juggles our nerves when certain characters are in trouble, but also articulates elements within the environment that we definitely couldn’t have foreseen in the heat of the engagement, illustrating that much more persists out of frame than what we the audience interpret in frame during each sequence. Another one is the typical ‘Damsel in distress’ that somehow still persists in 2021, but here is deconstructed brilliantly while articulating the ferocity of Harley Quinn’s demeanor. It’s a sequence that certainly proves that she can handle herself, but above all else proves that anything guys can do, girls can do while using the charms of traits that they’re unfortunately taken advantage for.
– Devilishly delightful ensemble. Everyone cast here is in top notch form, but especially Robbie, Elba, and Cena, who bring to life these colorful personalities with the kind of complexities that blur the line of moral labels. Robbie’s most defining role to date in its third incarnation brings with it the kind of psychological frailty to compliment the impressive feats of physicality that have always been at her disposal. For Cena, his comedic timing as The Peacekeeper makes for the most imposing of dynamics that he has presented to any film thus far, and proved the versatility of his emotional resonance with a transformation that rides many highs and corresponding low’s to the determent of the character. However, Elba’s Bloodsport is certainly the most enjoying turn for me, personally, and one that brings with it the endless charisma that Elba is known for, with the resiliency that proves he was born to be an action juggernaut. As a leader of sorts for this group, it’s Elba’s steering hand that successfully attains believability in this group of criminals magnetically coming together as a misunderstood family, all the while keeping the eyes on the prize of moral clarity that some characters get lost in finding their way.
– Exposition dumps. The biggest problem to my experience with Gunn’s version of the squad, and one that often halted the progression of the narrative too often and bluntly in attaining a two hour run time, was the abundance of long-winded backstory delves that makes this movie feel like “Backstory: The Movie”. With superhero films, it’s commonplace to often build for a sequel, not several films that have already taken shape in the past of these tortured characters. I honestly wouldn’t mind it much if it happened a time or two during the film, as I realize certain exposition is required to further flesh out the connection to the characters, but when this film is stopping constantly every fifteen minutes during the first and second acts, it gets the storytelling off to a rough start, and one that I feel isn’t always pivotal to the information that it’s trying to convey. It’s the one thing that unfortunately this film carries over with its predecessor, and serves as more of the forceful hand-holding that I hate from scripts that have no faith in their audience to coherently interpret matters without discussing them.
– Underwhelming antagonist. Don’t get me wrong, Starro isn’t a weak villain by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just that the way he’s utilized throughout the film left more to be desired, especially considering the conflict he brings with it is so monumental and universal compared to the domination of the other antagonist in the foreground of the story, who is local. Because of such, “The Suicide Squad” pulls from the same trick as films like “Iron Man 3” or “Black Widow” have done, where a legendary antagonist of comic book movies is shelved for a human conflict that isn’t even remotely capable of shedding uncertainty with the level of protagonists they’re off-setting. I wish that the Squad were purely just fighting against Starro, as I feel those were the moments (Especially the climax) when the film was at its best. When it deals with the politics of a communist country in danger by those in charge, it sagged most noticeably, and steered through a conflict that I honestly couldn’t have cared less about.
My Grade: 8/10 or A-