“The Suicide Squad” makes up for lack of emotion with plenty of laughs

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Image courtesy of IMDb.

Thomas Hartill, Editor in Chief

Graphic courtesy of Canva.

After going through intense controversy surrounding his past actions and a worldwide pandemic, director James Gunn finally returns to the big screen with his newest film, The Suicide Squad

Not to be confused with Suicide Squad, the 2016 film with almost the exact same title, The Suicide Squad is a soft reboot of sorts. It shares a few notable characters with the 2016 film, but it largely starts fresh with a new and exciting vision from James Gunn, one of the most unique filmmakers in the industry today. Similarly to its predecessor, the film follows a team of imprisoned supervillains (officially named Task Force X but colloquially referred to as the Suicide Squad) who are tasked with carrying out nearly impossible missions for the United States government in return for a reduced prison sentence. In this film, Task Force X finds themselves assigned with infiltrating the island nation of Corto Maltese in order to destroy a research facility containing ambiguously dangerous alien experiments.

The film features a stunning cast of character actors, comedians, and big-name stars including Idris Elba, Margot Robbie, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, Peter Capaldi, and many more. Carrying a much more vibrant, off-the-rails tone than its predecessor, The Suicide Squad acts as the perfect vehicle for the main stars to show off their comedic talents. John Cena shines as the utterly hilarious Peacemaker, a deranged character akin to a rather troubled version of Captain America. Whenever he appears on screen, Cena steals the show as he walks the dangerous tightrope of absurdist deadpan humor. To no one’s surprise, Margot Robbie is once again stellar as Harley Quinn, the psychotic former girlfriend of Jared Leto’s Joker (who is thankfully nowhere to be found in this film). 

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Idris Elba as Bloodsport, Cena’s foil in the film, is a strong central character for the audience to connect with, even if he lacks a particularly unique personality. However, where Elba’s character truly provides value is in his father-daughter relationship with fellow Task Force X member, the strangely named Ratcatcher 2. With an excellent performance from Daniela Melchior, Ratcatcher 2’s emotional profoundness is undeniable, thanks in part to a wonderful albeit brief appearance from Taika Waititi as Ratcatcher 2’s father. Connected by their attachments to their respective family members (Bloodsport to his daughter and Ratcatcher 2 to her father), these two characters act as the emotional center of an otherwise raunchy and irreverent film. That’s why it’s awfully frustrating that this bond and any others like it are few and far between.

That isn’t to say the movie lacks emotion. From the very first scene to the very end of the credits, The Suicide Squad is bursting with emotion and personality. The problem is that these emotions largely consist of irreverence, immaturity, and carelessness. It’s certainly narratively freeing to allow one’s characters to be killed off on a whim, but it makes it much harder to grow attached to the ones that don’t die. Yes, it is a key aspect of the Suicide Squad of the comics that these characters are essentially pigs for slaughter in a game of government manipulation. It’s impressive that James Gunn managed to capture this tone so expertly in his film. But still, it can become rather exhausting to grow attached to characters that all too often die in unexpected, frankly unsatisfying ways.

Despite this disconnect, The Suicide Squad is still extremely fun, a quality the 2016 film lacked. Harkening back to the days of 1970s war films, James Gunn’s direction is bursting with energy in a way that no superhero (or supervillain) film has before. The opening credits sequence establishes this right away, with flashy title cards and kinetic camera movements, and James Gunn maintains this tone throughout. This, in part, is what makes the film one of the most enjoyable to watch in recent memory.

While it isn’t the most emotionally complex film, The Suicide Squad is easily among DC’s better efforts when it come to film. With laugh-out-loud comedy and a distinct visual style, the film is one of the best to release this year, and it’s hard to imagine audiences not loving every minute of it.