I suppose I should throw out a caveat here. I was weaned on the action films of the 1980s. My dad and I would watch your Delta Forces, your Commandos, your Rambos. So while I do enjoy films with subtext, deep characterization, and ponderous themes, I also have a soft spot for films where colorful characters come together to blow stuff up. And Suicide Squad is an exemplary example of a film where colorful characters blow stuff up.
If I were to give you an “elevator pitch” to describe this film, I’d describe it as The Dirty Dozen meets Escape From New York by way of Ghostbusters (the original, that is). The film captures echoes of all best qualities of those films. This is where I’d give a plot description, but Rich already gave you one in his review, so I’ll point you in that direction and then go on to telling you how good I thought the film was.
I think Suicide Squad works is because David Ayer, the writer and director of the film, kept it simple. This might be strange to hear if you’ve been reading reviews of how muddled it was, but basically the plot is that they are bad people who are sent in to do a job and complications occur. That’s pretty much it. And that’s not a criticism. Great action movies have been built around simple plots.
As for characterization, some characters, namely Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and Deadshot (Will Smith) get a whole bunch of backstory, but all of them get enough to create easily identifiable characterizations. Well, except for one character, but the Red Shirts on Star Trek never got much along the lines of characterization either.
But what little backstory the characters had was more than made up by the actors themselves. Unlike Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, all the performances were consistent throughout the film and build on whatever characterization was supplied by the script. Deadshot doesn’t go from assassin with a twisted sense of morals to a kill-crazy lunatic just because the film needs him to be. Smith’s portrayal stays steady and all of his actions spring believably from the characterization. I was especially impressed by Jai Courtney, whose Captain Boomerang was remarkably true to the comic book version yet totally fit in with the film itself. It was a good example of an actor understanding what what expected of him and building more onto his character, He was a hoot.
I even liked the Joker. This was my biggest concern about the film going in, but I really like what Ayer and Jared Leto did with character, turning him into a psychotic crime boss. The performance reminded me a bit of Johnny Depp’s take on Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, both charismatic and dangerous.
Ayers direction is steady with some flashes of brilliance. You’ll never confuse him with a Raimi or a Scorsese, but he managed to make a character who’s special ability was being a very accurate shooter seem exciting. And, in combination with the stellar acting, is actually able to evoke emotions from the audience during the final act.
And I really loved the production design on the film. Everything from the on-screen graphics to the costumes to the sets were exciting and inventive. I especially like the way the Enchantress looked on the screen. She goes through many forms on during the film, and each incarnation was visually interesting and totally fits the character.
As an installment of the DC Extended Universe, well, it definitely is a step in the right direction. Let me put it this way, out of Batman vs. Superman, I was only interested in seeing Wonder Woman again. Here, I’d love to see the adventures of pretty much all of these characters. The powers that be do well in tying this in with the bigger universe–Superman’s death is the spark that leads to the creation of the team, and there are cameos from other DCEU heroes in the film–but also fall into a problem Marvel faces where there is an extinction-level event that every DCEU hero should be working to stop but only the Suicide Squad is left to face it. I mean, the villain takes over Midway City (the city DC uses to represent Chicago) as a base of operations for her plan to destroy the world, you’d think other heroes would take notice.
That nitpicking aside, Suicide Squad is a fun, brutal action film. I enjoyed it a lot and it has reaffirmed my faith in the future of the DCEU. I think its well worth your moviegoing money.