Earlier this year, Warner Bros. released the hugely anticipated Batman v Superman to a polarising, divisive reception that had a lot of fans and movie-goers disappointed. However, all eyes have been on Warner Bros' wildcard project, ever since, to finally get DC on the right track: Suicide Squad.

I'm a huge comic-book and superhero fan and advocate for both Marvel and DC. However, whilst the MCU keeps churning out solid film after solid film, having been established for 8 years now, Warner Bros. have had a bit more a rough time launching their DC Cinematic Universe - they have failed to impress with both Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice, which were fairly mawkish, below-par films. After the latter opened to poor reviews earlier this year and underperformed at the box-office, the next DC film, David Ayer's Suicide Squad, has been under a lot of scrutiny and pressure to be the big critical and commercial success that the studio need to finally get things back on the right track and give hope for future DC standalone pictures. Now, whilst the critical reception has been fairly mixed (mostly negative, though), I have to say, I found myself quite enjoying Ayer's supervillain team-up. The film is a mess, for sure, there's no doubt about it. But it's also pretty good at the same time.

With powerful figures like Superman now existing in the world, and plenty of other metahumans creeping into the daylight and potentially posing a threat, Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) goes about enlisting a group of the toughest, baddest and just craziest criminals around to protect them, forming Task Force X - a team of bad guys that are forced to use their abilities for good; either that or be killed. Making up this elite team are the likes of the Belle Reve prisoners Deadshot (Will Smith), Killer Croc (Adewale), El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) and the witch entity Enchantress (Cara Delevingne). However, when The Enchantress begins to take over her human counterpart, Dr. June Moone, and plotting something that courts human extinction, the misfit Task Force X must put aside all their differences and troubles and bad habits to come together as a squad to save the Earth from its destruction.

If the premise sounds like a pretty paint-by-numbers, generic comic-book/action movie, that's because it is. The story is by far the weakest element of Suicide Squad. Rumours suggest that writer/director David Ayer only had 6 weeks to write this entire film and it certainly seems so because the plot - or lack thereof - is pretty shocking. Everything in this film is basically just a MacGuffin device, merely present for the sake of getting our eponymous team from one scene to the next and giving them something to do along the way to fill the runtime of this picture and give it some substance. Ayer is a notorious writer, having written really engrossing, nuanced dramas like Training Day and End of Watch in the past; Suicide Squad feels like a waste of such talent, with barely any real story or nuance here at all and also a very weak, generic antagonist that has no purpose but to provide our heroes - or "bad guys", I should say - with something to go after. The dialogue can feel a bit cringy and contrived too and the storytelling is just pretty messy as a whole. There is still plenty of great banter between our characters however and the film has a fair bit of strong humour and great one-liners scattered here and there too. Also, the character themselves have been well-written and fairly well realised too.

With any film of this calibre and reputation, as much as a strong story plays a key role in the film's success, it all falls down to the characters and the audience's investment in them. Suicide Squad may fall short on storytelling attributes, but it certainly excels with its characters - they are the heart and soul of this film and make it what it is. Ayer does a very good of fleshing out each and every one of the core members of the titular team and getting the audience investing in all of them and rooting for them - through plenty of flashbacks and exposition or profound character/team-building moments (a bar scene is a highlight); the first act basically gives us a whistle-stop tour of these folk and their abilities and it's the best section of the film, by quite a bit. DC has great villains and this film impressively takes an ensemble of them, the majority never seen before in film, and handles them well and gets us on their side. The dynamic between them and their interaction is so fun and energetic too and it's a delight to see these bad guys work together with one another. As far as the flashbacks in this film go, the large majority of them are dedicated to Harley Quinn and The Joker (Jared Leto) and their relationship, and the former's origin; the pair are just so electrifying together, and the dynamic between them both is unique and crazy and just so fun to watch.

Of course, there is veritable chemistry between Jared Leto and Margot Robbie too, which helps really sell their relationship and make it believable. There is such strong, palpable chemistry between this whole cast, in fact. Ayer has assembled a stellar ensemble and each and every actor is remarkable; Will Smith and Margot Robbie are, undoubtedly, the standout pair as the film's biggest stars, Deadshot and Harley Quinn, and they're so great. Contrary to my initial apprehensions to Smith's casting (though I think he's a great actor), he doesn't dominate the film's screentime and works well with this team. Seeing the actor play a darker character is refreshing and he gives one of his better performance in recent years as this very conflicted character - his backstory is one of the larger ones in the picture and it adds a lot of humanity to the character. Robbie is by far the best thing about Suicide Squad this film; her portrayal of fan-favourite Quinn is perfect. She brings the right amount of wit and insanity to the character and embodies her brilliantly, completely disappearing into the role and instantly so lovable and intoxicating with her charm and craziness. I also never thought I'd never say this but Jai Courtney is actually good too, oozing charisma as Captain Boomerang and bringing the belly share of humour to the picture. Jay Hernandez was a personal favourite too, as El Diablo; whilst his storyline was perhaps somewhat predictable, he brought a lot of levity to the proceedings as the more reluctant and reserved member of the group and his backstory will tug on the heart strings.

Viola Davis and Joel Kinnaman also shine, as the more morally straight and grounded characters Amanda Waller and Rick Flagg respectively, the pair taking charge of Task Force X - although even their morals can be questioned at times; Ayer's message of the line between good and bad is a blurred one but everyone can find redemption is quite the poignant one. Karen Fukuhara and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje are both good too, despite having the least screen time, and being very underused. If this is "bad versus evil", then sweetheart Cara Delevingne's turn at the evil, possessed antagonist Enchantress should have us quivering with fear. Yet, it doesn't. Delevingne is an incredible talent and she gives a strong performance here, but she also feels very underutilised and her character is nothing more than a bland, generic comic-book villain. Her motives are unclear and she doesn't stand out as a formidable antagonist, due to how lacklustre her character arc was because of how poorly she was written - by far the weakest of the lot. As for Jared Leto's The Joker, he was a wildcard and his role was fairly detached from the main team and premise. Leto's turn as the Clown Prince of Crime is certainly very different from anything we've seen before, with this version feeling like a more modern, truly off the chain interpretation. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. He never quite reaches the wit of Nicholson, nor the craziness of Ledger, but instead settles for in between. Leto can go a bit too overboard at times - even for such a character - and some of his dialogue delivery doesn't work. Although, at other points, he is truly chilling. His scenes with Robbie are the film's best but his screen time is limited and it would have been nice to see a bit more of him. Oh, but his Joker laugh is just hauntingly good.

Suicide Squad is a movie driven by its characters. In that regard, it excels. We instantly love these bad guys and want to watch them together, kicking ass. However, when you look at this as a whole, as an actual, cohesive film, it's a hot mess. As I've mentioned, the main storyline falls to pieces and is pretty bad, with a weak antagonist and threat too. The editing is also fairly messy and uneven as well, causing the film to feel pretty choppy and not flow as seamlessly as it should. The music can be a bit of a pain too. I will admit that I do like the soundtrack and the various tracks on it but the film opts to cram as many of these songs in here as possible - most of the time, just for the sake of it - and the film can begin to seem like a giant music video rather than an actual film. Also, whilst I said the first act of Suicide Squad is its best, the finale is by far the worst. It's just a big, bloated CG-heavy mess. Because of our lack of investment in Enchantress as a villain, it feels kind of deflated and bland and there is too much unnecessarily going on. Whilst it's by no means as bad, it does bring to mind the over-stuffed Dawn of Justice finale, and even the Fant4stic finale at one point because of the giant, meaningless swirling portal and everything flying around. That's not a comparison you want.
It may seem like I'm really hating on this film, but I'm not. I did still really enjoy it, nonetheless, despite all of its many flaws. Visually, this film was gorgeous. The effects and CG all looked great and believable and the cinematography was slick and stunning too. The costume and makeup were all great too - Killer Croc looked so cool and real - and there are plenty of easter eggs and nods to the comic books for the die-hard fans to look out for too. Ayer very competently directs this and the action sequences were all very entertaining and engrossing - so visceral and violent and well directed.However, the biggest praise I can give Suicide Squad is that it was fun. Unlike Man of Steel or Batman v Superman, this film had a fairly lighter tone and was just so much fun to watch. Like Harley Quinn and The Joker, this is a movie that is bursting with riotous craziness; it's a wild, fun good time. Sure, it comes with its fair share of baggage and problems, but it doesn't really even matter much anyway because we're having such a blast, regardless of the issues. Suicide Squad doesn't quite reach the potential it could have reached, and there's definitely glimpses of a really great film here, but it's shrouded and lost in this hot mess of a film. It's a step in the right direction for Warner Bros. though - it's much better than both its DCEU predecessors - but, as mindlessly entertaining as it is, you can't help but feel that this could have been something very special, and is instead just another standard, competent blockbuster that is big on style, but lacking in substance. However, David Ayer has done a good job of establishing these characters into the cinematic universe, so let's hope we see more of them in the future, because, at the end of the day, I'm rooting for a Suicide Squad 2.

David Ayer has whipped up a riotous concoction with Suicide Squad, one that is chaotic, wild and plentiful in fun and insanity, all delivered with electrifying aplomb, if only let down by its lacklustre writing and messy storytelling. 

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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