By Keith Hill
Rated M. Starring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Viola Davis. Directed by David Ayer.
Already this year we’ve seen Batman and Superman punch on in the name of justice, but now Suicide Squad sees room for a motley crew who do jobs so dirty that not even Batman will wing in to get involved.
In response to the fear that the next extraterrestrial visitor to Earth won’t share Superman’s concern for ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’, government official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles an off-the-books team of imprisoned supervillains, dubbed Task Force X, who are able to fight the government’s dirty battles and cop the blame if anything goes awry. Unfortunately for Waller, things go bad right from the get-go, with Enchantress, an ancient and evil sorceress who inhabits the body of archaeologist June Moone (Cara Delevingne), escaping Waller’s control and unleashing her equally ancient and evil brother while recruiting him in her plan to create a machine that will destroy the Earth’s defences and allow her to reign over the whole world unopposed.
Cue the entry of Task Force X, fully aware of their role as an expendable ‘Suicide Squad’, who are brought in to cover up the mess that Waller has created for herself. Led by Special Operations expert Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the team consisting of Deadshot (Smith), Harley Quinn (Robbie), Boomerang (Jai Courtney), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Katana (Karen Fukuhara) and Slipknot (Adam Beach), each is implanted with a micro-bomb which will detonate should they go rogue. Together the team make their way through Midtown to confront Enchantress and hopefully rescue June.
While Suicide Squad retains a lot of the darkness of its DC predecessor Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, it ditches much of the seriousness for some witty dialogue and one-liners. The fight-scenes are well choreographed and give each character the chance to unleash their own brand of crazy on their supernatural enemies. Smith and Robbie in particular are standouts, and each of their characters are given enough space to develop a backstory that will feed into future films in the franchise.
But for all its strengths, there are a lot of areas where Suicide Squad leaves you a little disappointed. As with many of these superhero team films, there is a lot of overcrowding, which means many of the team don’t get a lot of dialogue or development. And while the big names in the cast hold up their end of the bargain, a lot of the supporting cast doesn’t quite cut it. Kinnaman as Col. Flag in particular comes across as rather wooden, and for someone who plays such a central role, it’s disappointing that his dialogue consists of little more than grunted out cliches and unnecessary plot narration. Likewise, the Joker (Leto) comes across as pretty humourless and Leto fails to measure up to Heath Ledger’s brilliant interpretation of the character in The Dark Knight (an admittedly hard task). He gets a lot of screen time for someone who doesn’t really serve much of a purpose beyond filling in Harley Quinn’s backstory, which doesn’t help the film’s uneven pacing.
The thing that distinguishes the Suicide Squad from the myriad of other bands of superheroes that get around saving the world is that these guys are unapologetically evil. All driven by self-interest, they’re only along for the ride for the chance to escape, or for time off their sentence. There’s no altruistic motives here. But they all have their limits. During one scene where El Diablo expresses his regret of some particularly horrific crimes, Harley Quinn encourages him to own it – to take delight in it. Boomerang responds with horror, ‘That’s the problem with you – outside you’re amazing, but inside you’re ugly.’ Harley’s response reveals a depth of understanding from her years as a prison psychiatrist: ‘Inside, we’re all ugly.’
That’s the Bible’s assessment of humanity in its natural state too. Though we’re capable of amazing things – acts of beauty and charity, achievements in technology and science and the arts – inside, and before God, we’re stained by sin that makes us filthy in his sight.
But while Harley’s solution is to embrace it, and to delight in our evil, the Bible offers a better solution. In 1 Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul lists a range of sins that you would immediately associate with a band of miscreants like the Suicide Squad. But the reality is that these sins characterised all of us, deep down. But for those who trust in Christ, that’s no longer what characterises them. Paul says:
‘You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.’
While the best the Suicide Squad can hope for is to return to their cells with slightly reduced sentences and a few creature comforts, for those who trust in Jesus there is a complete pardon and a cleansing from the ugliness of sin.
The Verdict: With all the hype surrounding Suicide Squad, the film was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. While it has some great moments, and leaves a lot of potential for future DC releases, it’s let down a little by uneven pacing and an overcrowded cast. 3/5
Suicide Squad releases in cinemas worldwide later this week.