James Gunn's The Suicide Squad is the best film in the DC Extended Universe. While previous entries like Batman v. Superman and Wonder Woman 1984 struggle with tone, interesting villains, what kind of films they're trying to be, etc. - The Suicide Squad sticks to Gunn's vision, resulting in an ultra-violent, darkly comedic romp that should lay the groundwork for DC's future films.
The Suicide Squad is no sequel to 2016's Suicide Squad - think of it as a redo. The premise remains the same - a group of incarcerated supervillains is recruited by intelligence official Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) to join Task Force X and carry out a mission. The catch: if they succeed, ten years are removed from the villains' sentences. Failure, on the other hand, results in the detonation of a bomb implanted in each villains' head.
This information is presented within the film's opening minutes - Gunn opts out of any origin story territory, leaving the next two hours to near-constant action. From there, two Task Force X teams are assembled and dropped on the beaches of Corto Maltese, a South American island whose government has been overthrown. This introductory beach battle encapsulates the "suicide" aspect of the team - no one is safe. Within the film's first fifteen minutes, six members of the Suicide Squad featured on the poster are killed.
The majority of The Suicide Squad follows its main titular team: Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), King Shark (Sylvester Stallone), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), and Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian). Each member is given their chance to shine, and the group has solid chemistry - notably between Bloodsport and Ratcatcher 2. The film's success is largely attributed to its cast - Robbie is incredible-as-always as Harley and Cena feels perfectly cast as Peacemaker. Melchior shines in her English-speaking film debut, bringing an emotional backstory to the team. Aside from Harley and Rick Flag, none of these villains have ever appeared in a DC live-action film. Gunn opted to use unknown characters and it works - even though The Suicide Squad is definitively DC's most violent, adult film, it doesn't take itself seriously. Polka-Dot Man literally shoots firey polka-dots from his hands.
The Suicide Squad is also a great-looking film. Modern blockbusters have become so bogged down with visual effects that they've become tiresome to look at - everything is clearly green screen. Gunn shot this film on mostly practical sets, making it the most visually impressive superhero film since perhaps Endgame. The effects never remove from the feel of the film, and full-CG characters like King Shark never feel under (or over) done. It's clear that millions went towards the kills in the film, resulting in the goriest, most gruesome superhero film to date. Heads are sliced, faces are shot, and bodies are ripped in half - constantly. This isn't the comic book content of your mee-maw's time.
The DC Extended Universe is headed in the right direction - if they continue the formula that makes The Suicide Squad successful. Gunn proves that comic book films can be for adults and not require Prosac-sprinkled popcorn to get through. Let Marvel take care of the bloodless, family-friendly stuff - I want to see Batman breaking bones, god damn it. The second half of 2021 film releases are looking strong, and The Suicide Squad is a fantastic way to kick it off.