The Suicide Squad

The Suicide Squad ★★★★

"If there is a God, this is proof that He isn't good, no?"

Feels almost entirely like a James Gunn film rather than a DC movie or even a studio production at all; I am reminded most of James Cameron, who made many an exuberant exaggerated action extravaganza with complete creative freedom to carry out his craziest, most over-the-top ideas in exhilarating fashion. Gunn's most defining trademark has always been gleeful sadism, so him and this property is a perfect marriage. He isn't afraid to lean into the the despicableness of every character, emphasizing and overemphasizing the detestability of each of them as well as the corruption and inhumanity behind their coercion, which seamlessly puts into perspective the level of evil and injustice they're fighting.

In Gunn's world, death is arbitrary, often funny and always gratuitous, but never meaningless. That's the brilliance of the premise, of these characters – they are endlessly entertaining to watch, but for the most part we're also very okay with them dying. Gunn understands both the limits and possibilities of a movie in which you can kill off main characters with reckless abandon, simultaneously grounding the film in the imminent threat of sudden death and elevating it into a hyper-stylized epic reality.

The movie can be viewed as the squad striving not just for freedom but for their own self-actualization. The main monster is not really itself the villain, but a victim of similar manipulation and corruption that allowed for/created the suicide squad. It's really just an out-of-control weapon, representative of imperialism and the nuclear weaponry criminally developed after the world wars; and the suicide squad, too, are effectively just weapons, disposable and completely controlled by their bearer. Their every move is forcefully determined by irresponsible government officials, and the slightest disobedience results in their being discarded – they essentially have no free will (nor the facade of it if you're not into the whole free will thing), as all their heroic, demented, and outrageous actions are not truly their own. Except Harley it seems, who continues to be the most nuanced character.

So yeah, I kinda loved this. Feels like what blockbusters should be, what they would be if their trajectory had continued from their heydey in the '80s and '90s and not gotten hijacked by formulaic studio projects that overtook the field. There is a vision here, a voice, a moviemaking excitement. It feels vibrant and alive, made by passionate people rather than a machine. It may be a theme park ride, but it's the best damn ride in the whole park.

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