- Hamish Hart
The Suicide Squad (2021) Review
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
HOPES were indeed high for James Gunn's star-studded interpretation of The Suicide Squad following the lukewarm reception the 2016 original received, and despite minor hiccups during the second act, this latest addition to the DC cinematic universe was exactly the kind of "oomph" the franchise needed, resulting in one of the greatest and most refreshing superhero movies in recent years.
The Suicide Squad wastes no time jumping into the action, hastily explaining the premise in a coherent manner in order to keep newcomers interested without boring veterans with repetitious exposition: complete the mission and you'll receive a shortened prison sentence, and if you disobey orders, the bomb implanted in your head will detonate; simple.
With such a large cast of nearly 15 supervillains and their group literally dubbed "Suicide Squad", casualties were to be expected and odds are that your favourite may not survive the chaotic bloodbath. While this will leave some people disappointed that their favourite characters weren't properly developed, the sudden realisation that any one of the protagonists could die at any given moment created an emotional attachment with each character and further solidified the weight behind every action sequence. This sense of urgency was supposed to be a major selling point of the original Suicide Squad, but there was very little reason to care about the squad of old as their chemistry with one another fell incredibly flat, something James Gunn was able to fix with a wonderfully-written script and colourful cast of criminals.
Gunn proved in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy he is able to give deep, meaningful backstories to even the most outlandish characters such as a sentient tree, and as expected, the acclaimed director once again nails these emotional moments. Fan favourites such as Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) are further developed in a positive manner, particularly Flag who is a telltale sign that The Suicide Squad's shift in tone was for the better, being portrayed as a man with moral principles rather than an stone-cold soldier. The varying degrees of personalities also plays into the dynamic they possess with each other. Characters such as Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), an empathetic young woman who controls rats, and humanoid great white King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), work off one another incredibly well as King Shark's arc of having no friends ties in with Ratcatcher's of possessing thousands of feral friends, giving Melchior's character adamant reason to emphasise and befriend the lone great white. Other standouts included Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), all of whom did a tremendous job at providing gut-wrenching comedy and moments of magnitudinous stress.
The original Suicide Squad was littered with licensed music, and while I'm a sucker for a trip down memory lane when a catchy tune plays, David Ayer's selection of songs for the 2016 film was astonishingly odd, with tracks being chosen and played in certain places because of their name alone. Gunn showcased his excellent taste in music by selecting songs not based on their popularity, but their relevance to characters or scenes. A perfect example of this is during the opening scene where we are introduced to the inmates at Belle Reve prison while Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison Blues plays, a song which expresses the laments of criminals wanting to escape their confinement by any means necessary, foreshadowing the film's entire premise through one single chorus.
Aside from a perfect original and licensed soundtrack, the film also makes full use of its R-rating as buckets of blood and copious amounts of curse words are implemented into each action sequence to create a film that, excluding the middle portion, never slows down. Even during the minor slumps halfway through, the dialogue still managed to be witty and engaging, allowing for further character development in order to make the final battle more captivating from both an emotional and visual standpoint. And as for the visuals, The Suicide Squad is an absolute joy to look at. Whether it be the surprisingly-impressive effects for King Shark or the colourful costumes worn by each character that give them their own unique tone, the visual effects and costume design departments both deserve praise as both could easily be nominated for Academy Awards, especially considering that the drab colour palate used in the original won an Oscar.
If you're concerned that the sequel won't be as good as the original, don't be - because it's even better. The Suicide Squad was a unique experience to say the least and is everything that David Ayer's underwhelming mess should've been. James Gunn's latest superhero feature was jam-packed with explosive action, charming performances from every actor and actress, witty dialogue and a surprising amount of emotional substance attached to the large leading cast, all of which resulted in one of the best superhero films ever made and my personal favourite movie to come out this year.