REVIEW: ‘The Suicide Squad’ Accomplishes Its Mission

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the suicide squad

After the critical response to Suicide Squad (2016), director James Gunn and Warner Bros. Pictures had a tall task getting fans back on board with Task Force X back on the big screen. Birds of Prey proved that Warner Bros. could produce a rated-R film that was still laced with comedy and a feel-good atmosphere akin to Shazam and Aquaman. The clear move away from the dark and gritty DC films has been a success, but the looming 26% Rotten Tomatoes rating of its predecessor leaves a low bar for The Suicide Squad to hurdle but still one that left me with no expectations going in. In a sequel that many likely didn’t ask for, could Gunn bring the chaotic fun promised by the R-rating, eccentric trailer, and star-studded cast? In true Task Force X fashion, they accomplish their mission in the most gruesome, wholesome, and hilarious way possible.

Gunn, well known for his success in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Guardians of the Galaxy, seemingly took notes on the numerous issues that fans had with the first Suicide Squad right from the opening sequence. Instead of the long-drawn-out backstory (or the one-line backstory in the case of Katana) of our little known  DC characters, The Suicide Squad opts to get directly in on the action with Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) throwing in the newest members of Task Force X into the latest suicide mission. Waller sends a team to a South American island called Corto Maltese, whose inhabits are in the midst of regime changes, to destroy Project Starfish. In this, moviegoers get exactly what the film is going to be: vicious, action-packed, quippy, with little twists along the way to keep viewers guessing as we learn no one on the team is safe.

The Suicide Squad lives up to its R-rating as the first major sequences of the film are filled with beautifully creative deaths as the superhuman criminals both murder and are murdered by the Corto Maltese military. Just as it seems that Task Force X will live up to The Suicide Squad moniker, Gunn switches up the pacing by flashing back to days prior to the mission to give focus to the members of Task Force X will focus on: Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), and Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie). The choice to lay out the assembling of the team in a flashback was a much-needed pacing change compared to Suicide Squad (2016) which spent too long building out the characterization of the team rather than the absurdity of such a team. It is clear that just as Task Force X is made up of some of the biggest stars, so too is the team behind The Suicide Squad. 

The Suicide Squad screams James Gunn as he dials up things we have seen from him before to a new level. With the help of Henry Braham (Guardians of the Galaxy 2) Gunn uses a variety of cinematography tricks to keep the viewer engaged. The action set pieces, location markers, timeline information, and even the beginning credits are done in such a way that repeated viewings will give more and more nuggets of genius to find. His direction is paired brilliantly with a soundtrack by John Murphy (Kick-Ass) that rivals that of Guardians of the Galaxy as popular music is blended in perfectly as scenes transition or character moments become the focus.

As the film progresses, The Suicide Squad gives each character their time to give their backstory in a more natural manner as the team progresses through Corto Maltese to complete their mission. The chemistry of the cast is evident. Where Margot Robbie and Will Smith had to carry much of the acting in Suicide Squad (2016), everyone in The Suicide Squad gets their time to shine in both the action sequences and their individual character moments as even King Sharks steals many scenes with his endearing nature despite eating a man whole just second before. Each character bounces off each other perfectly with Idris Elba and John Cena being standouts early in the film as the two with very similar skill sets look to one-up each other in their ability to creatively murder. Even Harley Quinn gets much better treatment as she goes from the clear eye candy and booty shorts from Suicide Squad to absolute independent badass that we see her become in Birds of Prey. 

The plot of The Suicide Squad is perfectly situated in the skill sets of Task Force X. There is no sky beam or threat that should have been handled by Justice League.  Despite the fact that the trailer shows the inevitable conflict between Task Force X and the Starro, a giant space starfish, the film does a great job showing that they are capable even if not everyone will make it through as the start of the film establishes that no one is safe. Too often do the DC films flop in the third act but The Suicide Squad subverts the expectation of an easy victory or CGI slugfest that lacks the substance of the rest of the film. By the end, you will be rooting for Task Force X to win the day and even a little sad for a galactic starfish who didn’t ask to be there.

I’ll be honest. I was worried about yet another plot of a Latin country ravaged by a dictatorship with only the United States of America to stop them. However, as with almost everything else in the film, this premise is subverted throughout to paint people like Amanda Waller to be the true villain in a much better manner than in Suicide Squad. Additionally, it was great to see the people of Corto Maltese have the variety that the Latinx community is known for. It was clearly intentional to have the residents of the island not only be one shade of brown, full-beared, and male which happens way too often in cinema. There are various shades of brown pointing to the rich cultures that are infused in the Latinx community as well as many women giving orders and taking the center stage throughout the focus on the Corto Maltese people. It is a small addition but one that I noticed immediately.

Overall, The Suicide Squad achieves its mission in more ways than one from the character interactions, to the easy flow of the plot, to the amazing cinematography, to even the length as 120 minutes fly by. If you are looking for a film that improves on every misstep that its predecessors made, The Suicide Squad is that film. You will laugh, you will wince, you will aww, you may even cry, as you are sucked into the magic of a rated-R James Gunn film. I will be back on Friday, ready to watch again and again.

The Suicide Squad is available in theaters nationwide and HBO Max on August 6, 2021.

The Suicide Squad
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

Overall, The Suicide Squad achieves its mission in more ways than one from the character interactions, to the easy flow of the plot, to the amazing cinematography, to even the length as 120 minutes fly by. If you are looking for a film that improves on every misstep that its predecessors made, The Suicide Squad is that film. You will laugh, you will wince, you will aww, you may even cry, as you are sucked into the magic of a rated-R James Gunn film. I will be back on Friday, ready to watch again and again.