Suicide Squad (a short study)
2016 ‧ Fantasy/Crime film ‧ 2h 10m ‧ dir. David Ayer
The Antihero of Superhero Films - Charlotte Haley (FR)
Amid a haze of bad reviews, I am prepared to defend DC’s Suicide Squad…to a degree. While this dark, violent romp may appease some comic book fans, it has certainly met with derision from several critics, and for several reasons. Though I agree that Suicide Squad has many flaws, there is some evidence to suggest that this is for good reason, and that they do not detract from one’s overall enjoyment. Now, on with the main show…
Tasked with putting together a team to defend earth should a superhero turn on humanity, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) draws up a plan to collate the world’s deadliest villains, already incarcerated, and use them to America’s advantage. From the moment he appears, Deadshot (Will Smith) is established as the star of the film. His screen presence is undeniable, and his backstory admirably portrayed in a sensitive and poignant way. Then, the film adopting a jerky editing style that is at once disorientating and gives the impression of constantly watching the trailer for a film instead of the film itself, Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is introduced. One of the most highly-anticipated roles of the year for comic book fans, Robbie comfortably slips into the role of the zany killer, trapped in an unhealthy affair with The Joker (Jared Leto). Her psychotic love of chaos and violence is palpable every time she crosses the screen; Robbie’s performance is certainly one of the highlights of this film. Emerging from this broken, trailer-like introduction to the main stars is a semi-coherent film with a more intelligible plot than Batman v. Superman (2016). Borrowing from that film, however, Suicide Squad is rich in dark and disturbing imagery, in keeping with the gritty atmosphere of Gotham and Arkham that fans will know so well. The rest of the squad, including an encouraging performance by Jai Courtney as the uber-Australian Boomerang, must go up against Enchantress (Cara Delevigne) to protect the people who have condemned them to a life of misery under the label of ‘bad-guys’.
The morality of the film is intriguing; the establishment symbolised by the ruthless Amanda Waller is quite explicitly shown in a negative light, ironically but predictably showing the ‘good-guys’ to be corrupt and amoral. More interesting, however, is the sympathy with which the Suicide Squad are portrayed. Their chemistry as a group, believable because of the length of each character’s solitary confinement, adds another level of charm that is separate from the messy plot and negligible antagonists. In fact, the group of loveable rogues is what keeps the film afloat, amongst choppy editing and occasionally questionable special effects. The Joker, his appearances brief, carry the promise of un-fettered madness and destruction in future films, and the cast’s encounter with refreshingly damaged characters is a joy to witness. No wonder the stars are speaking out against the criticism: it would seem that they are not to blame for the movie’s shortcomings.
There is some argument for DC’s inexperience with ensemble superhero films, and how this translates to on-screen flops that excite the fans but fail to impress the critics. Arguably, Marvel has had far greater experience (and success) than DC when it comes to high-budget, crowd-pleasing blockbusters - not to mention a far lighter repertoire to pull from. In contrast to the chrome-plated, carefully-manufactured ethics of Marvel films, only really called into question by this year’s Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad wallows in filth, celebrating the retrograde and outcast. With several exciting cameos that harken the coming Justice League (2017), this film is a dark celebration of DC’s grittiest villains; it has faults, sure, but it is certainly going in my ‘guilty pleasure’ category…and I’m not even that guilty about it.
By Charlotte Haley - 2016 Film Representative @ FAFF