Dr Jose Arroyo of the Department of Film and Television Studies has contributed film criticism to a range of media outlets including Sight and Sound magazine, Front Row on Radio 4, The Cinema Show/ The DVD Collection for BBC TV and many others. Here he reviews Suicide Squad, the third installment in the DC Extended Universe, written and directed by David Ayer.
Suicide Squad is a 2016 American superhero film based on the DC Comics antihero team of the same name. It is the third installment in the DC Extended Universe. The film is written and directed by David Ayer and stars an ensemble cast featuring Will Smith, Jared Leto, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood and Cara Delevingne. In Suicide Squad, a secret government agency led by Amanda Waller recruits imprisoned supervillains to execute dangerous black ops missions and save the world from a powerful threat, in exchange for leaner sentences.
'Jared Leto’s look and performance were the only thing I really loved about Suicide Squad: he moves from innocent, heightened, romance to some leering looney almost before our eyes; the kind of transformation one remembers from childhood cartoon characters; and he brings a completely new spin to the role Heath Ledger put such a strong stamp on that it’s been his until now. But no longer. Leto seems all sweet and innocent and then he begins to leer in a lewd and suggestive way; it’s like sex mixed in with innocence and somehow rendered sweet instead of pervy because it’s the meeting of souls that the Joker and Harley Quinn are after.I though Leto wonderful; he and Margot Robbie together looked like they’d been sketched by the same artist and their relationship is a looney romance that lifts the film every time they share a scene. Most of the rest of the performers were fine, and they did look the part, especially Robbie, though maybe because her role is larger than Leto’s it was easy to see how repetitive it became as the film unfolded. I did find Cara Delevingne quite terrible in the long shots, like she had no idea how a Goddess should move and was simply trying to remember what frenzy had been like in the High School Discos.She’s not much better in the close-ups. Her performance and that of Viola Davis made me think what a straight-jacket ‘realism’ has become to American acting. Like they can’t imagine a stylised performance structured purely for the purpose of effects. What a pity.
But the performers weren’t the problem….At the moment none of these big budget movies seem to know how to do action; yet that’s their bread and butter; they do the look: things exploding, characters poised for movement, explosive backgrounds. But there’s no thrills at, say, an action completed because the quick cutting prevents one from seeing it; and narratively, there doesn’t seem to be anything at stake in the action: we don’t know the consequences of a shot or a movement, or even what the characters need to do to get out of a situation: it’s barely narrated and it’s not dramatised at all. And yet these films are almost all action; so if that’s not working, the spectacle actually ends up not being very spectacular. I found it dull and noisy. And I’m sorry to say that as I’ve really admired David Ayer’s work in End of Watch and Fury.'
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