Liberty at the movies: Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad, the latest installment in the DC cinematic universe, is currently leading the box office and generating its fair share of controversy. While critics have panned the film many fans have embraced it, leading to a major fan versus critic Internet flame war.

I thought Suicide Squad was a fun movie with some great performances (partially Will Smith as the DeadShot--a hitman who never misses a shot hence the nickname, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn--the psychotic girlfriend of the iconic villain the Joker, and Jay Hernandez as El Diablo, a man struggling with his power to turn himself into a fire demon), some fun action, and some interesting character development.

However it does suffer from plot holes and some poorly written characters, at times it does drag--partially in the beginning when it takes to long to establish the premises and get on with the story, and many of the philosophical/political themes that I noticed in the movie are undeveloped.

The film has also generated some debate over whether the move's portrayal of Harley Quin, and her relationship with the Joker, glorifies domestic abuse (for those unfamiliar with her backstory: Harley was the Joker's prison psychiatrist but she feel in love with "Mr. J' and helped him escape. He then tortured her psychically, emotionally and mentally in order to turn her into a female version of himself.)

What few have picked up on is the way Suicide Squad  can serve as an analogy to the way the US Government's interventionist foreign policy and violations of civil liberties creates the very problems they are supposed to prevent.


In the aftermath of Superman's death in Batman v Superman, Amanda Walker, a particularly ruthless official with an unnamed "national security agency" comes up with he idea to form a "black opts" team comprised of some of the nation's  worst supervillains to help protect us in case the next super-powered alien to land on earth does not "share our values."

It may be hard to believe Walker could ever get approval for such a scheme, but is the Suicide Squad any more ridiculous than the idea that mass surveillance and forcing pregnant women to dump their breast milk before boarding an airplane will keep us safe? Or that arming ISIS in Libya and Syria will somehow help "democratize" the Mid-East?

Walker is a arguably one of the film's main villains. In one scene she even shoots some of her assistants because, in the course of doing their job, they have obtained information they do not have clearance to know. She also has a great sense of self-preservation, as the Suicide Squad's first mission is to recuse her--- and only her-- from the Enchantress.

In one of the movie's most poorly-executed plot points, the supernatural villain is acutely unleashed by Walker. The villain (the Enchantress) is an ancient demon that possess an archaeologist who had the misfortune of uncovering her burial place. Walker believes she can control he Enchantress because she posses the Enchantress's heart, meaning Walker can kill her if she does not obey. But (in a huge plot hole and leap of logic even by comic book movie standards)  that does not stop the Enchantress from resurrecting her demonic brother, escaping the army's supervision, building a demons army, and regaining her heart.

Even worse, when Walker is told the Enchantress is on the lose and thus Walker;'s control, she tries to destroy her heart...with a pencil.

Demon armies trying to destroy the world? Talk about blowback and intended consequences!

Many libertarians will enjoy the scene where Deadshot questions whether he is really worse the the solider assigned to supervise the team. Deadshot reasons that  hey both kill for money and, while Deadshot kills on orders of his mobster clients. The soldier kills, steals, and carries out other immoral acts on the orders of his "superiors." 

It is no surprise that the movie addresses how giving government more power to protect us leads to abuses of that power. Suicide Squad's David Ayer, was the screenwriter for the academy-award winning police drama Training Day, which dealt with how the war on drugs leads to police corruption and abuse of civil liberties.

Make sure you stay for the mid-credit scene, where Walker makes a deal with pertain Gotham City billionaire to exchange information on other "meta-humans": in exchange for the billionaire's protection form anyone out to damage her career or worse because of the Enchantress fiasco.

The scene is meant to set up the forthcoming Justice League movie, which looks good. I was also intrigued by the revelation that the latest incarnation of Bruce Wayne has significant influence with the with  the national security agencies, as well as the obvious tension between Wayne and Walker. I hope that theme of tension/cooperation between Bruce Wayne/Batman and the federal intelligence agencies is developed in future DC movies.

For all its flaws, Suicide Squad is a fun action movie with some interesting ideas hidden in the mix.

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