Now playing in theaters and on HBO Max, The Suicide Squad is a “spiritual sequel” to DC Comics’ 2016 movie, Suicide Squad. Visionary director James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) takes a break from Marvel Studios to helm the new DC film, which is not a direct sequel to the original but more of a reboot. The new movie features returning cast members Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, Joel Kinnaman as Col. Rick Flag, Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang. While working with some of the original cast, Gunn welcomes new faces to his squad, including Idris Elba as Bloodsport, David Dastmalchian as Polka-Dot Man, Daniela Melchior as Ratcatcher 2, and Peter Capaldi as The Thinker. The result is a fresh, funny, and action-packed film that is everything fans of the ”Suicide Squad” comics ever wanted from a live-action adaption, thanks to writer/director James Gunn’s unusual vision and strong performances from Elba, Robbie, and Davis.
The Suicide Squad takes a fresh look at Amanda Waller’s (Davis) Task Force X program when she sends two separate teams of super-villains to the island of Corto Maltese to destroy a secret government facility after a local political cue. The surviving members of the two teams eventually join forces to finish their mission when they discover the “secret” held inside the facility is called ‘Project Starfish,’ an alien monster that could destroy the entire world. Now, the squad must come together despite their differences and make new alliances to stop the creature and save themselves and the world. In addition to the main cast, the film also includes several fun supporting performances, including Sylvester Stallone as the voice of King Shark, Pete Davidson as Blackout, Michael Rooker as Savant, Mayling Ng as Mongal, Sean Gunn as Weasel, Flura Borg as Javelin, and Nathan Fillion as T.D.K.
Without going into all the behind-the-scenes drama of the making of director David Ayer’s Suicide Squad, James Gunn’s move from Marvel to DC, and the recasting of Will Smith with Idris Elba, let’s say that The Suicide Squad is the movie that Warner Bros. always wanted to make. James Gunn is the perfect writer/director for this material. It was clear from the first Suicide Squad trailer that the studio always wanted the DC version of Guardians of the Galaxy, and now they finally got it! No one puts together a funnier or more action-packed, character-driven superhero blockbuster than James Gunn! With his choice of characters and their interactions, fast-paced storytelling and humor, unusual camera movements and tone, as well as his musical selections, James Gunn has achieved an absolute masterpiece with The Suicide Squad and created one of the best DC movies of all time!
I mentioned earlier that Idris Elba was originally set to replace Will Smith as Deadshot. Still, the studio and Gunn eventually decided to change the role to Bloodsport out of respect for Smith. It is obvious that Elba is still basically playing Deadshot, which is just fine with me as he is an essential member of the Suicide Squad, and I never really felt that Smith was a good fit for the role. Elba gels with the character much better as you can believe him as a villain with a change of heart, as opposed to Smith, who can never really escape the actor’s hero image. Elba gives a commanding, movie-star performance and has great chemistry with the rest of the cast.
As far as the new additions to the cast, Daniela Melchior and David Dastmalchian deliver heartbreaking performances and, in many ways, are the film’s emotional strength. John Cena probably gives his career the best performance in a role that utilizes all of the wrestler-turned-movie-star’s best qualities. Sylvester Stallone’s voice is wonderful as King Shark, and I think between him and Ratcatcher 2, this film should do for sharks and rats what the Guardians series did for raccoons and trees. While their roles are somewhat limited, Pete Davidson, Michael Rooker, Flura Borg, and Nathan Fillion all have their own unique moments to shine.
One of my issues with the original Suicide Squad is that actor Joel Kinnaman was unable to hold his own up against the likes of Smith and Davis playing the role of Col. Rick Flag. The character became almost insignificant in that film. That is completely the opposite case in the new movie as Kinnaman is strong and commanding and right at home opposite Robbie and Elba. However, of the original cast members, Davis and Robbie completely steal the show. Viola Davis is still intimidating as Amanda Waller, but much funnier and somewhat self-deprecating this time around. There is also a great twist regarding her office full of “background players.”
And what can be said about Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn that has not already been said? She was born to play the role, and while her part is not quite as big as it was in previous DC outings, she is certainly the female lead and has plenty of moments to shine as well. Robbie has terrific chemistry with Elba and Kinnaman, as well as Juan Diego Botto, who plays the dictator of Corto Maltese and Harley’s love interest. The actress also has several great “hero moments,” but with the character’s twisted humor, she never lets the audience forget that Harley IS a psychotic murderer.
But, the MVP of The Suicide Squad is definitely James Gunn, whose sensibilities marry perfectly with the source material and the characters. Drawing inspiration from the classic John Ostrander run from the comics and films like The Dirty Dozen, Kelly’s Heroes, The Great Escape, and Where Eagles Dare, Gunn perfectly aligns the tone humor over-the-top action. The film utilizes every bit of its R-rating, just as it should, and spares no expense at the blood and violent carnage. The third act CGI-villain reveals a real crowd pleaser and looks pretty awesome on-screen without giving away any really cool Easter Egg spoilers for comic book fans. It’s based on a character that has been around since the 1960s and has connections to the Justice League of America, so fans should be delighted with the last thirty minutes of the film.
In the end, the second time was the charm for Warner Bros. and DC as James Gunn has truly delivered an entertaining and emotionally exciting movie that is worthy of its iconic title and the brilliant source material that it was inspired by.
Jami Philbrick gives The Suicide Squad a perfect score of 10 out of 10.