James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad proves that there is potential for a great story in even the weirdest and most obscure corners of DC’s catalogue of heroes and villains. Gunn delivers a film which not only far surpasses its predecessor, but the entirety of DC’s film output since Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008.
Gunn’s visual style throughout the film is akin to that which you may find in one of Edgar Wright’s most visually daring films. Gunn pairs his stunning visuals with the over the top, gruesome, yet oftentimes, comedic violence, mastered in recent films such as Deadpool, or the John Wick franchise. Each shot, sequence and line of dialogue oozes with a sense of energy, charm, and wit rarely done so well in the modern age of superhero filmmaking.
The Suicide Squad may have viewers more engaged and emotionally invested in a superhero film than they have been since Gunn’s previous release Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 2017. However, The Suicide Squad does not fall into the trap of rehashing Gunn’s previous work with Marvel, but instead paves its own path, with its own unique identity, voice, and character, allowing for a film which is just as memorable and engaging as anything accomplished within either Guardians film.
The Suicide Squad follows a simple narrative structure, placing all of its chips onto its actors’ performances, character writing, and set pieces. Luckily, the film does not disappoint in any of these areas. Particular standout performances include Margot Robbie, who gives her best and most introspective performance as Harley Quinn to date; Idris Elba as Bloodsport, working as both the straight man and emotional core of the film, helping carry the weight of the film and bring the best out of the performances of the wild cast of characters surrounding him; and John Cena as Peacemaker, with brilliant comedic timing and expertly executed interactions and dynamics with the rest of his cast. There is not a single character who feels under-developed or unimportant to the plot of the film.
The relationship audiences develop with these characters is essential to the film, as it establishes within the film’s first set piece that no characters are safe and everyone is expendable, and when the emotional moments of the film come, they hit hard as a result. It is a breath of fresh air to watch a superhero film where it doesn’t feel like your team of core heroes are protected by an overall feeling of “plot armor,” keeping you on the edge of your seat for the entirety of the film.
While the villain leaves much to be desired, and the third act can drag on a bit, these are minor complaints in one of the best superhero releases in recent memory, and by far the best release within the DCEU to date. The incredible sequences and moments throughout the film surprise time and time again, from the opening action sequence to the third act’s out of this world Kaiju battle. James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad does not disappoint, setting a high bar for superhero storytelling the post-Endgame age of superhero filmmaking.