Look, we all had our doubts about The Suicide Squad. David Ayer’s largely panned 2016 film Suicide Squad wasn’t great, and it proved just how difficult it is to bring a ragtag team of villains to the screen, make them seem appropriately evil and yet, still get the audience to root for them. So, when James Gunn, a renowned writer and director, known to most as the mastermind behind Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, was announced as helming a new Suicide Squad movie, fans of DC, Marvel and just films in general were confused. Was this a reboot, remake or perhaps a sequel?
The end result is a bit of everything. It’s a sequel in the sense that the events of the Suicide Squad are not mentioned, but more implied and indirectly referenced, but in many ways, this feels like a fresh start, a new way of bringing such a concept to the screen. Focused largely on new characters, Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a superhero, or perhaps a supervillain story like none other. Anyone buying a ticket should be aware, The Suicide Squad is not for the faint of heart, or stomach.
The film throws us right into the action as the titular Suicide Squad, made up of several jailed villains, storm a beach on an island far away from Belle Reve Correctional Centre. Lead by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) and supervised by the ruthless Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), every member of the squad is expendable as they attempt to make their way to a secret facility that might harbor something rather alien and rather dangerous, that now threatens the entire world.
The film mostly focuses of Idris Elba’s Bloodsport, John Cena’s Peacemaker, Daniela Melchior’s Ratcatcher II, David Dastmachian’s Polka-Dot Man and the Sylvester Stallone-voiced King Shark. They’re a fun bunch and most of the pure glee of The Suicide Squad comes from the chemistry and dynamic between the actors. Gunn’s script is, as expected, razor sharp and full of wit and jokes, but also heart. While the balance is at times a little off, The Suicide Squad manages to pack a mighty emotional punch in between all the laughs and there are laughs aplenty.
What you might not be expecting, especially if you haven’t watched the trailers, is just how violent and downright gory The Suicide Squad is. Gunn got his start with horror films and has never been afraid to showcase his ability to craft scares and the spectacle of gore, but it is in full force here. None of the characters are safe in the hands of Gunn and expect to see your favourites to meet their gory ends sooner rather than later.
The Suicide Squad is also a testament to Gunn’s ability to direct actors and bring out the very best performances from them. While we all know Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, both whom return from Ayer’s film, as well as Idris Elba can act the socks off a film, it’s Joel Kinnaman who proves to be the film’s biggest surprise. Kinnaman was a little bland, a little forgettable in Ayer’s film but here, Gunn has managed to draw out a charismatic and layered performance from Kinnaman.
The film starts with such a bang, it’s shocking, wild and unexpected, but the rest of the film struggles to maintain that level of energy and craziness. Clocking in at 132 minutes, The Suicide Squad is bloated and excessive, but never anything less than riotously exciting and entertaining. This is Gunn at his most masterful; every frame of The Suicide Squad feels controlled, yet loose. At times, his self-indulgence gets the better of him and the film could certainly have been trimmed down. Some shots are simply unnecessary; a CGI shot of a character’s heart being pierced seems a little heavy-handed, we get the idea when someone is stabbed.
All in all, The Suicide Squad is a win for both the DCEU as a whole and Gunn as a filmmaker. It’s a fun, thrilling and brilliantly staged action epic that feels dangerous and unpredictable in an age where studio films have all but lost their edge and the element of surprise. The Suicide Squad feels like a rare treat, something to be treasured and something worthy of the big screen experience.
The Suicide Squad is in UK cinemas July 30th.