The DCEU returns with a sequel to the 2016 disaster that was Suicide Squad, aptly titled The Suicide Squad. Written and directed by James Gunn, this sequel follows the new and familiar members of Task Force X as they’re tasked with infiltrating the military-run island of Corto Maltese.
The Suicide Squad wastes absolutely no time kicking into gear – introducing all the main players right off the bat, getting the essential pieces of setup done in a matter of minutes and leading into one of the strongest action sequences of the entire film. This opening sets the tone and gives an indication of what we’re going to get stylistically going forward. One decision I love is that it doesn’t give you the entire breadth of the story in one hit. It gives an initial setup of the mission, and then gradually – through a few key scenes – reveals more about said mission and exactly what the team is going to be dealing with. Bits and pieces of the narrative aren’t told linearly, jumping back and forth through time to explain certain scenarios after the fact. It’s a familiar technique that’s handled really well and not overused.
As time goes on, the story successfully keeps you on your toes with consistent little shocks and surprised. Despite the overall structure remaining quite familiar to other films in the genre, it’s the individual moments along the way that subvert expectations. I guess that comes from the unpredictable nature of following a team of villains. The narrative is easy to follow, fun and remains pretty fast paced for the majority of the runtime, largely the first and third acts. Following a very entertaining first act, the middle of the film is riddled with a few slower patches that weren’t nearly as engaging. The character dynamics, comedic beats and brief stints of action are still there, but they’re broken up by stretches of time just setting up the big finale and nothing much of value is happening. It all picks back up in the third act, where everything it has set up prior pays off in some big ways.
There’s no question that this film has James Gunn’s signature all over it, with beautifully stylised action sequences and pinpoint comedic timing across the entire film. When it comes to the action, Gunn shows a great understanding of how to stylise an action sequence based on each villain’s abilities. Whether it be Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) or the likes of Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman), each of their respective scenes feels unique, which prevents them from becoming repetitive. As seen in his Guardians of the Galaxy films, Gunn is a master when it comes to weaving comedy into his action sequences – and that’s no different here. He nails this distinct tone where the action remains quite brutal and bloody, while the characters can still joke around and have fun without coming across as campy. The comedic hits drastically outweigh the misses as each of the main characters chimes in quite regularly. It never becomes too jokey and maintains a good balance of serious action and fun.
The great thing about pairing all these misfits together is it makes for some very entertaining character dynamics. The back and forth shit-talking between Bloodsport and Peacemaker (John Cena) is the strongest running joke of the film – weaved very well into the dialogue and the structure of a couple of action sequences. Then of course Harley Quinn has such a strong, distinct personality that her interactions with every other character are absolutely golden.
Speaking of Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie is the star of the show. She absolutely nails the mannerisms of the character, completely disappearing into the role and providing some of the most entertaining moments of the film. Her comedic timing is so on point that whenever she’s on screen you know you’re about to get something good. She may be the one holding down the fort, but it really is a great all-round ensemble. Idris Elba, John Cena and David Dastmalchian all bring their A-game in crafting their respective characters. They’re great throughout their action scenes and play off each other really well for some entertaining running jokes. Also, credits to Viola Davis who is powerful in every one of her scenes as Amanda Waller – she’s not featured too heavily, but she’s damn memorable.
In the end, The Suicide Squad is a huge step up from its predecessor, capturing a great balance of stylistic action and comedy to craft something that is entertaining almost the whole way through. On top of James Gun’s stylistic achievements, there’s actually a really solid narrative being told that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. It sets everything up immediately, wasting absolutely no time, meanders a little through the second act, and finishes up strongly with a big final showdown. It’s another win for the current mess that is the DCEU, and also a win for comic book movie fans who get another piece of quality media to enjoy.