In David Ayers’ breakthrough from gritty thrillers (Fury, End of Watch, Training Day), Suicide Squad proves to be a multi-faceted adventure that drags us into the darker end of the DC Comics Universe. Here, in the spirit of John Ostrander’s comic book creation, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) uses the fear resulting from the arrival of Superman to strong-arm the government into the creation of a villain-populated Task Force X. In their cinematic debut, the ‘team’ must come together to take down one of its own, the magic-wielding Enchantress (Cara Delevigne).
Much of the film serves as a tutorial on the characters who will make up the squad led by (disgraced) Army Special Forces officer Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), whose love for the woman Enchantress possesses drives him to ignore his better moral instincts. From the criminal element, there are a variety of powers and levels of depravity: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s Killer Croc, Jay Hernandez’s El Diablo, Jai Courtney’s Captain Boomerang, Adam Beach’s Slipknot, and Will Smith’s Deadshot. Much of the non-humorous, ‘theological’ dialogue occurs in the verbal back-and-forth between Flag and Headshot, but they are still not the screen-stealer that the final member of the Squad is.
Margo Robbie’s Harley Quinn is a psychiatrist who fell hard for Jared Leto’s Joker while attempting to rehabilitate him in Arkham Asylum. She is the one most developed within the context of the film – she learns to ‘love’ her new colleagues, but she’s also the focus of the Joker’s rescue attempt. The struggle for Quinn objectifies her in the same way that the Belle Reve Prison guards ogle her, but the script (which reduces some of the characters to talking bits of cardboard) still allows Quinn/Robie to show some sense of herself.
While most of the characters are presented fairly flatly (as they often were in Ostrander’s comics), Hernandez’s El Diablo was the most captivating, from his tragic backstory to his present refusal to use his powers. While we understand that most of the criminals included in this power-filled cinematic Dirty Dozen were not always evil, we recognize that the pain of his decisions has left El Diablo scarred – in ways that only Smith’s Deadshot might understand.
While Smith is the headliner, and has powerful included moments, the inclusion of so much, so fast, makes the film feel somewhat scattershot. With so many characters, it’s impossible to develop all of them, but the film still makes it clear that these Squaddies aren’t the epitome of evil – that they might not even be the worst characters on the ‘good’ side of the ledger. In fact, we’re reasonably clear that Waller’s ‘greater good’ philosophies have pushed her to a place where evil runs wild in her soul and actions.
Thanks to Warner Bros.’ special features on the Blu-ray combo pack, fans can dig into either the theatrical version or the extended cut (which always feels better fleshed out). There’s also a from page-to-screen featurette with “Task Force One: One Team, One Mission,” a gag reel, and several other features. The one which most intrigued me was Ayer’s feature on blending the realistic grittiness of his previous films with the wild, power-filled world of DC Comics in “Chasing the Real.” All of this will give the audience more food for thought – as if this crazy crew isn’t enough!