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Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Suicide Squad Review: Valorous Villain Assemblage Makes Visual Delight

From writer/director James Gunn comes the highly anticipated superhero action-adventure The Suicide Squad, featuring a collection of the most degenerate Delinquents in the DC lineup.

Welcome to hell—a.k.a. Belle Reve, the prison with the highest mortality rate in the US of A. Where the worst Super-Villains are kept and where they will do anything to get out—even join the super-secret, super-shady Task Force X.

Today’s do-or-die assignment? It is to first assemble a collection of cons, including Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Savant (Michael Rooker), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Blackguard (Pete Davidson), Javelin (Flula Borg) and everyone’s favourite villain, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie).

Then, the next part of the assignment is to arm them heavily and drop them (literally) on the remote, enemy-infused island of Corto Maltese.

Trekking through a jungle teeming with militant adversaries and guerrilla forces at every turn, the Squad is on a search-and-destroy mission with only Colonel Rick Flag on the ground to make them behave.

Amanda Waller’s government techies in their ears, tracking their every movement. And as always, one wrong move and they’re dead (whether at the hands of their opponents, a teammate or Waller herself (Viola Davis)).

If anyone’s laying down bets, the smart money is against them—all of them.

All in all, the task force of convicts are sent to destroy a Nazi-era laboratory and encounter the giant alien Starro.

The beginning shot is of a rough, long-haired prison inmate who slaughters a young bird. Instantly, the director plunges into this immersive world of idiosyncratic, glitzy and tongue-in-cheek outlaws fighting for the greater good. Not to compare, but the second instalment is far gorier and violent.

At the same time, though, I feel that the violence is quite important for the characters in the movie and not just incorporated for the sake of it.

Given that these are infamous supervillains, bloodshed is their only weapon. It is the world that they are familiar with.

In fact, we also see a vulnerability in the characters too. Whether it’s the poverty-stricken Ratcatcher Cleo Cazo (Daniela Melchior) or Harley Quinn lamenting her bad choices in men, each trauma of the baddie is explored.

These moments make us empathise with the villains, even though they are antagonists.

Similar to Warner Bros’ earlier work Joker, it explores why a villain becomes one and re-emphasises how the marginalised can get pushed to the dark side due to bad circumstances.

The poignancy and developed characters are enriched by the humorous exchanges between them. Nanaue (the Shark) is a brilliant creation as he takes up the ‘Groot’ role here.

Seeing such a built, fierce creature like Shark but yet maintaining a childlike innocence is endearing. The character brings light-hearted energy on the screen which beautifully balances the barbarity of action.

Each actor portrays their part convincingly and that is a given. Idris Elba is natural at playing Bloodsport – the alpha of the group as well as a dysfunctional but protective father. He balances both these aspects seamlessly.

After recently essaying the anti-hero in Fast 9, it’s quite refreshing to see him portray a lighter-hearted role, but yet with grey shades. His constant banter with Idris is great to watch.

Viola Davis is such a powerhouse talent that her acting is a genre in itself. Reprising her role as Amanda Waller, she unveils darker layers in a steady but authentic way. In every frame, she is formidable and unbreakable.

A particular scene worth mentioning here is where Waller blackmails Bloodsport. He comes charging towards them in rage on the verge of stabbing her but she does not flinch at all.

The power of her character (and as an actor) is assertive knowing that she is in control. Only a tremendous actor like Davis can present the role in such an impactful way.

However, it seems like any DC Film now would be very incomplete without Harley Quinn and Margot Robbie continues this iconic role with such ease and oomph.

From the tone of voice to speaking style or pantomime mannerisms, she surrenders herself completely to the role. Robbie exhibits the susceptibility and ruthlessness of Quinn so naturally that it feels as though the character will jump out of the screen… Not in a 3D way, of course.

Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi and Daniela Melchior also deliver their parts brilliantly.

James Gunn’s vision as a storyteller is marvellous. Throughout the movie, we see action scenes explode on screen as they break out into kaleidoscopes. Each stunt and special effects are beautifully executed.

Big credits also go to the crisp cinematography. The slow-motion of crucial action stunts enhance its visual appeal and leave us engaged.

The main shortcoming of The Suicide Squad for me, nonetheless, is the inconsistent pacing, perhaps due to the screenplay. I feel that it initially begins very quickly but somewhere in the second half, it drops and then picks up again.

Moreover, the crux of the story is not explained thoroughly in the beginning and is rushed. Thankfully, we later discover why the main plot is so perilous and it all makes sense. But I feel a better explanation of the premise would’ve made viewers more informed from the onset.

Generally, the visual aesthetics, comicality and engagement of storytelling have certainly enhanced since the first instalment in 2016. Going by the final product, due consideration and creative processes have gone well into this film.

The lethally fascinating aspect of The Suicide Squad is that it blurs the divide between a stereotypical hero and villain. Here it splashes a bunch of murky characters and creates a narrative wherein it’s not about the good and bad, but feather who is good within the bad.

It’s been a tough few years for us due to the pandemic and grim situation so the film is great escapism cinema.

There is also something so satisfying seeing a bunch of dark characters fight back the evils of society. Who would’ve thought redemption could make such an entertaining watch?

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 years)

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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