Suicide Squad, directed by David Ayer, is a film that feels a little mismanaged in the beginning, but once it begins to settle into what it wants to be, I feel Suicide Squad offers up exactly what it presented itself as being. Are there problems with the film? OH YES! But… these aren’t problems that can’t be overcome. The film certainly misses the mark in some areas, but it also achieves some pretty good moments. So let’s see if all the negativity and dislike for this film is warranted, or if there’s actually a good film in there somewhere.
The story in Suicide Squad sees Amanda Waller – played by Viola Davis – put together a team of the worst of the worst; hitmen, monsters and the criminally insane. Wanting a team that can take the worst jobs and be completely disposable is what Waller wants, and something you’ll quickly learn in this film is: what Amanda Waller wants, Amanda Waller gets. But at its core is an ensemble film filled with uniquely varying characters; all with their own very distinct style.
What I think is one of director David Ayer’s strengths is his ability to put interesting and compelling characters at the forefront of his films, and then sufficiently explore them – ‘End of Watch’ and ‘Fury’ being good examples. Suicide Squad is now another example of that; Ayer – I feel – really does a good job of developing these characters just enough that we feel like we understand them. Now what I will say is that the introduction of the characters is really badly done. Not only is it a structural mess, it is also really badly written. But I’ll get back to that in a second; I want to continue with the films bread and butter first: its characters (of which there are a few).
Leading the charge for me in the film is the powerhouse that is Viola Davis (Amanda Waller). Not only does Viola Davis as an actress stand-out – her performance is powerful and is sadistically enjoyable – but her character is just one who you love to hate. She holds all the cards, and she knows exactly how to play the game. There are of course a lot of talks of standalone films; Batman, Harley Quinn etc. I’m now waiting for the Amanda Waller standalone film.
There is of course a whole squad of characters under her control and I’ll do my best to break them all down. The two that everyone wants to know about: Jared Leto as the Joker (who is not a member of the Squad), and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. I’m happy to say that it’s another knock-out of the park for a ‘Joker’ Performance. While Leto doesn’t have as much screen-time as everyone else, he certainly leaves his mark. He looks the part, he sounds the part, and there is enough offered up in the film that I’m excited to see more of him going forward. But it’s Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn who shines in this film. There is something so endearingly disturbing to the character of Harley Quinn, and Robbie captures it perfectly. Much like the characters in the film: you fear her but you also can’t help but love her. I’m not sure if the character can support an entire feature-length film on her own, but then again, if it explores further into the psychosis of Harley Quinn and her connection to the Joker; like this film did. Well then, that’ll be a film worth seeing.
The other big roster bad guy on the team is Deadshot – played by the charisma machine that is Will Smith – and I have to say, I was surprised at the level of depth to the character. He’s probably the one that general audiences will connect with most. There is a heart to the character, and there is also meaningful motivation to him as well. Also, it’s just so hard to not like Will Smith, whatever the film (except ‘After Earth’ of course. No one was coming out of that film likeable).
But the biggest surprise is absolutely the level of depth that is brought to the character, El Diablo – played by Jay Hernandez. The film does a good job of defining what makes up the character. Unlike what I was expecting; some-guy who could manifest fire and end up disappearing into the background of scenes; the character is given layers to him. I sympathised with the character, and I liked the journey (though small) that the film took him on.
It’s here that the characters start to become a little fuzzy. Now I would say that I for the most part enjoyed everyone in this film; performance wise and character development wise – yes even Jai Courtney (Boomerang) – it’s just unlike the other characters, there isn’t as much for me to work with. Still though, I’m fine with what I got, and look forward to seeing more going forward.
Sidebar: Batman – played by Ben Affleck – does make an appearance in the film, but it is very small. The briefness of his appearance is really well done; not only because he doesn’t overshadow the film with always being there, but also because it just strengthens my liking for how they are presenting the character. There is one scene in particular (the one in the alleyway, I’ll say nothing more, for the sake of spoilers) that just felt so Batman; the way he enters, how he interacts with the character in that alleyway, it all just felt so Batman. My contained excitement for Batman continues (don’t mess it up DC).
Back to the main elements of ‘Suicide Squad’, and I move onto one of the big problems in it: for a film that is full of bad-guys, Suicide Squad is completely lacking in an antagonist. Did you ever have that moment when watching the trailers where you were wondering? “Who’s the villain in the film? Who is the Suicide Squad going up against?” Well the answer is an awful looking CGI monster and another character whose motivations are completely undefined; there is no real threat driving the film forward. Unless the film explicitly reminded me, I continued to forget why the Suicide Squad was actually a thing, and what they were doing in the city. The film completely fails to set-up, explain or intrigue with its antagonist.
In fact one of the overall issues is there is no clear understanding of what the Suicide Squad is doing on their mission until the beginning of the third act, and once it’s revealed, the moment falls completely flat (I’ll of course avoid describing the moment as it would be a spoiler). Other than that, the characters just end up fighting a generic villain with a generic plan; use some undefined blue energy which shoots up into the sky (shocking I know) and blows up a bunch of things. The Suicide Squad didn’t need a world ending foe to fight; something more grounded would have suited them. It’s annoying because at the heart of this film you have some really great characters, which for the time that they have on-screen, are well-defined. But there is no compelling driving force behind them. Sure their personal demons drive the characters, but nothing properly moves the film along; characters move from one shooty-shooty action scene to another, while we the audience are left to question their purpose in Midway City.
I also must point out, that a lot of what would have been some really rewarding moments during my watching of the film were unfortunately ruined by the trailers; a great one liner that ends a scene, a funny moment between characters, the majority of Joker’s madness, is completely under-cut by the fact that the trailers had stolen all the punch or meaning from them. Too many times did I know the path of scenes because the trailers had given it away. Yes that’s partly on me for seeing any of the trailers, but still… it’s frustrating. I don’t think it ruins the film overall, but it does rob it of some things.
Now it’s been passed around the inter-webs that the film had an issue with too many cooks in the kitchen; people behind the scenes going into panic-mode after the collapse of ‘Batman v Superman’ (you can click the link if you’re interested in reading my full review of that film) and so a lot of edits and re-shoots started to occur on ‘Suicide Squad’. This can definitely be felt in the first act of the film. The first act feels out-of-place in relation to the rest of the film. Editing wise and pacing wise, things feel off; with a jarring start, and a really sloppy handling of the characters introductions, Suicide Squad starts off messy. Nothing highlights this more than the AWFUL and INTRUSIVE music selections that happen. The film spears you in the ears with song choices that feel completely unnecessary, and completely outside the tone of the film. There was definitely a moment when I thought to myself, “oh no, it is as bad as everyone’s been saying”. Until… there is a point in the film where I think things shift, the film finds its footing and starts to feel like the film it wants to be; characters start to blend well with one another, and there is a semblance of some coherence – the film does drop out of that coherent path sometimes but not to an extent that it feels like it’s losing its way again. There are growing pains in the beginning, but the film matures into something that I started to enjoy and interact with.
So I want to transition but don’t see any smooth way to do it, so… action scenes. In a film like this, the action is a key component to the film. I’m pretty happy in saying that the action in this film, while small in scale, is decent in execution. I think that’s primarily through how cinematic it is. ‘Suicide Squad’ wasn’t ever going to be the next action-extravaganza; I was expecting the usual fight-scenes and shoot-outs; what I wasn’t expecting was how good so much of them would look. Ayer relies on a technique called: ‘speed ramping’. It’s where you slow the action in the scene down (usually an impactful moment) and then you speed it back up after the big moment has taken place; it’s common in films these days. However Ayer uses it to great effect, I feel. The action scenes aren’t that big or that impressive, and so his decision to do this adds some spectacle to them; while it’s not an excuse for lazy action sequences, it does at least add something appealing to them.
Which brings me onto the visual style of the film; it’s… muddled. The beginning of the film is filled with colourful splash screens that give quick (and impossible) to read dossiers on the characters. Later on in the film there’s none of that. Very straight-forward looking scenes that every so often come alive with some colour; for the most part though, the film doesn’t wow with how it generally looks.
So ‘Suicide Squad’ is a difficult one; there are A LOT of problems with this film; A LOT. Nearly all of them are justified complaints. But there’s something in this film that for me, made it an enjoyable watch. It’s nowhere near the best comic book film of 2016 (that’s currently between ‘Deadpool’ and ‘Civil War’) but I’m more than confident in saying that this is a better film than ‘Batman v Superman’. Unlike the incoherent mess that was that film, ‘Suicide Squad has elements to it, which make it an enjoyable experience: the biggest one of all being the great assortment of characters that it has coursing through it.
I’m going to recommend ‘Suicide Squad’. I know I’m in the minority on this one, but I liked the film. I went into this film with my expectations low, and I feel the film met them. It didn’t wow me, but it also didn’t bore me. I got more or less what I thought I would get from ‘Suicide Squad’, and that was enough for me.
I’d absolutely love to hear what your thoughts are on ‘Suicide Squad’ or this review. Feel free to leave thoughts, opinions etc. in the comments down below. If you’re interested in being kept up-to-date on my other ramblings; feel free to either follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you so much for taking any of your time and dedicating it to reading my writing, I truly do appreciate it.