THE SUICIDE SQUAD Review: James Gunn's Magnum Opus Is A Beautiful, Blood-Soaked Blast
You've seen the highly positive social media reactions to The Suicide Squad, but now that the review embargo is up, you can find our take on James Gunn's utterly bonkers DCEU debut right here.
When James Gunn claimed that Warner Bros. had basically given him free rein to go off and make The Suicide Squad exactly as he saw fit with zero restrictions or parameters, most of us took it with a pinch of salt. After all, this was the same studio that had gained a reputation for micromanaging its filmmakers and insisting on tonal and narrative changes which completely altered the final product.
Well, having seen the film, we can safely say that the writer/director was not exaggerating, because The Suicide Squad is genuinely, gleefully, James Gunn dialled all-the-way-up-to-11(ly), insane.
Setting aside the gore (and it is very bloody) and the trademark irreverent/sophomoric humor (most of the gags lands, some don't quite), this "Man on a Mission" style DC Comics adventure might just be the most bizarre mainstream blockbuster of all time. The plot itself is fairly straightforward, but Gunn peppers the film with lots of brilliantly odd little touches. One moment, in particular, is so jaw-droppingly bonkers that we're afraid to say any more for fear of spoiling the visual.
The story begins with Amanda Waller assembling a (mostly) new team of recruits for a mission known as Project Starfish. This incarnation of Task Force X is told only that they are to infiltrate the heavily fortified island of Corto Maltese, and that if any of them cut and run, Waller will detonate the explosive device in their head. After a disastrous opening battle, the depleted team make their way inland, only to discover that Waller left out a few minor details during her briefing.
Our "heroes" must then decide if they're going to complete their mission no questions asked, or risk losing their heads by deviating from their objective to protect the locals.
Of the new faces we meet, Bloodsport is the closest thing to a primary protagonist, with Rick Flag, Peacemaker, Ratcatcher 2, Polka-Dot Man, King Shark, and, of course, Harley Quinn all given roughly equal time in the spotlight. Even with so much going on around them, Gunn ensures that all of these characters are well fleshed out and vital to the story. King Shark and Ratcatcher will likely emerge as fan-favourites, but it's honestly impossible to single out a weak link, due in no small part to the excellent performances.
Everyone brings their A-game, but Daniela Melchior deserves special mention. Ratcatcher 2 proves to be heart of the film, and the young Portuguese actress delivers a powerful, star-making turn. John Cena also surprises as Peacemaker. The WWE Superstar turned actor showed promise in some of his earlier roles, but really gets the chance to demonstrate his range here as the initially amusing, but increasingly unhinged vigilante.
Then, there's Starro the Conqueror. A few eyebrows were raised when this relatively obscure DC Comics baddie was revealed to be the main villain, but it's actually difficult to imagine a more perfect antagonist for this film. Equal parts preposterous and terrifying, not even the giant, mass-murdering extraterrestrial starfish proves to be completely unsympathetic.
So, is The Suicide Squad a reboot or a sequel? As frustrating as the answer may seem, it really does depend on how you choose to categorize it. While it never directly references David Ayer's film, it doesn't disregard or contradict anything that happened in it, either, and there are a few indications that the events of Suicide Squad are canon (Harley, Boomerang and Flag all know each other, for example). That said, if you would rather forget the 2016 movie ever happened, TSS works as a fresh slate for the franchise and its characters (those who survive, that is).
Gunn has already stated that audiences will be surprised by how many of these guys are killed off, so it's hardly a spoiler to confirm that, yes, a lot of these guys are killed off! We're not going to go into specifics, but let's just say the filmmaker may not be quite as ruthless as he made out in interviews, and aside from some early cannon fodder, he ensures that all of the deaths are meaningful and pack an emotional punch.
While a few tears will undoubtedly be shed for the fallen, the most heartfelt moments actually spring from the relationships that develop between these reluctant brothers and sisters in arms as they face insurmountable odds together. Sure, some of them are pretty despicable villains, but most do have some sort of moral compass (even if they can't remember the last time they used it), so don't be surprised if seeing that humanity shine through amid the carnage is what ultimately has you reaching for the tissues.
The Suicide Squad is James Gunn's magnum opus: A near pitch-perfect blend of tones and genres, which somehow coalesces to form not only the film of the year so far, but one of the most purely entertaining
comic book movies you're ever likely to see. It is brutally violent at times, but what emerges through the array of flying limbs is a surprisingly tender tribute to camaraderie, and an ode to all the despised and misunderstood creatures out there.