Cole B., journalist
In the summer of 2018, James Gunn, director of the popular Guardians of the Galaxy films, was fired from Disney/Marvel after the offensive social media posts of his past resurfaced on the internet after 10+ years. Shortly after this, Gunn apologized for his insensitive, immature comments, and was hastily hired by Warner Bros. Pictures to direct any film he wanted. He created The Suicide Squad–one of the greatest comic book movies in recent years.
Meet the Squad
The Suicide Squad follows Task Force X, an elite group of supervillain convicts, including the crazed jester Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), the shark god Nanaue (Sylvester Stallone), the soldier Colonel Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the Peacemaker (John Cena), the mercenary Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), and Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchoir). Controlled by the cold, corrupt Amanda Waller (Viola Davis), the Squad goes on a mission to the fictional island of Corto Maltese in order to destroy something known as “Project Starfish.”
The film wastes no time getting to the action. The expository scenes don’t feel like unnecessary introductions to random characters and motivations; instead, Gunn’s excellent humor and the actors’ ability to establish a good rapport allow the scenes to introduce important information in ways that are fun and fast, but not rushed or confusing.
Additionally, the opening sequence on the beach of Corto Maltese is one of the most entertaining scenes in any action movie; however, it is not for the faint of heart. Gunn demonstrates the brutality that can be expected within the movie: characters are shot, explosions are frequent, blood is sprayed, and Amanda Waller’s ruthlessness is displayed through her sacrifice of lives as a distraction. But, this excessive violence is not without reason. Gunn uses over-the-top violence to show how no one is safe. Unlike other action films, where the viewer has some kind of assurance that the protagonists are secure, Gunn proves that any character can perish at any moment.
One of the movie’s strongest features is the performance of its stellar cast. It boasts an outstanding set of actors, including Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, Sylvester Stallone, and even John Cena. Of course, the film has absurd plot details–a group of supervillains, including one who shoots polka dots out of his body, must defeat a galactic starfish named Starro the Conqueror–yet the actors are still able to ground the story and add strong emotion.
Furthermore, the relationship established between Ratcatcher II (Daniela Melchior) and Bloodsport (Idris Elba) is phenomenal. The two grow from unknown, static characters to complex, emotional antiheroes due to their excellent performances. Their ability to convey the sadness of the characters’ tragic backstory through dialogue that compliments flashbacks/visuals makes the audience care for these misunderstood, psychotic “villains.”
The absolute highlight of this film is the sincere heart of The Suicide Squad. The Squad bonds, laughs, loves, and fights–just like a family. Several hopeless, insane misfits grow to genuinely care for each other while working for a government and goal that does not care about them. This unlikely bond develops the movie’s compassionate heart, which is absent in many other action films.
Essentially, this movie is not a soulless, bloody action film. Instead, it uses its gore and violence to create dramatic peril, in which the unlikely band of villains learns to value the lives of their comrades. Bloodsport evolves from a mercenary trying to detach himself from emotional bonds, Ratcatcher II teaches compassion for even the lowliest forms of life, Rick Flag ceases to mindlessly support his government and instead learns to do the right thing, and even Nanaue, or King Shark, learns not to eat his friends.
James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad is a masterful work, filled with fun, soulful, and meaningful messages about finding family in unexpected places. Although the film casually throws around the carnage, the deeper themes of compassion and family presented through the heart-warming relationships established between the Squad’s members make the film worthwhile.
The Suicide Squad is now available for digital purchase and will be available for streaming on HBO Max starting Dec. 23.
Photo Credit: The Suicide Squad. Directed by James Gunn, Warner Bros., 2021.