Theatrical Review: The A-Team
By coincidence, (or as one character of this movie might think, extreme planning), four elite Army Rangers come together on one special mission. Those men are:
• Colonel Hannibal Smith, known for having a plan for everything.
• Lt. Templeton “Faceman” Peck, a smooth talker and Smith’s comrade for this mission.
• Sergeant Bosco “B.A.” Baracus, a disgraced Ranger who unexpectedly gets drafted into this mission.
• Captain H.M. “Howling Mad” Murdock, their pilot who is “recruited” at the hospital where he’s being held for reasons of insanity.
Their mission is a success, and eight years and 80 missions later, this team is now highly regarded as an elite unit who basically specialize in the impossible. Now stationed in Iraq, the team is contacted by a CIA Agent named Lynch to take on a mission. Lynch reveals that the Iraqi are in possession of U.S. treasury plates being used to manufacture counterfeit currency. Lynch wants the team to steal the plates and over a billion dollars in cash before it can make it out of Baghdad. At the same time, a Department of Defense captain, named Sosa comes into play, warning her ex-lover Faceman to stay far away from this mission. Of course, the team takes the mission and they’re successful with that, but it all falls awry in the end, and now the team finds themselves all dishonorably discharged and having to serve prison sentences.
Six months into their sentences, Agent Lynch makes contact with Smith again, and gives them the chance to clear their names.
That’s the premise to The A-Team, the big-budget film re-birth of the iconic 80s TV series from producer Stephen J. Cannell. When the TV series made it’s debut, I saw a few of them, but wasn’t really a big fan of the show (though I wasn’t really against it either). It was criticized for being the most violent hour of television on the air and along with that, of course, a sign that TV was going to hell in a handbasket. It was in essence, a big live-action cartoon with bigger than life characters and ridiculous situations and that’s certainly recognized by director Joe Carnahan.
Carnahan knows he’s dealing with a live-action cartoon and he surely amplifies that with this movie. The characters, at least to me, are even more extreme and the film’s action scenes are just really ridiculous… but for the most part, it all works and it’s a pretty fun ride, as long as you know what you’re getting into.
Yes, the action scenes are ridiculous, but they’re also pretty thrilling and very well-made. They fit this film and if Cannell and company would’ve had the budget back in the day, they probably would’ve done the same type of stuff on television. For the biggest set pieces, Caranhan does a pretty skillful job of interweaving the action with the description of the plans. It’s a nice touch and if this should go to a franchise, this should remain as a signature for future films.
I do have a few problems with the film though, and those are mostly with the casting and an element of the casting.
Now our main players are really well cast. Liam Neeson plays Smith, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson plays B.A., Bradley Cooper plays Faceman and Sharlto Copley plays Murdock. Neeson was the big surprise to me when I first heard about this movie. Even though it is a huge cartoon, putting an actor of his calibre here is a huge, huge plus and he genuinely looks like he’s having fun in the part. Jackson’s really rock solid as B.A. and while I’m not exactly looking for huge depth in something like this, he actually does try his best to bring some to the role and it works. Cooper and Copley were both coming off of some big films before making this (Cooper had The Hangover and Copley had District 9 and I still think Copley should’ve been Oscar nominated for District 9) so their stars are on the rise. Copley’s my favorite in this cast and yeah, he’s nuts, but he also brings a huge zest for life in just about every scene he has. Cooper is smooth and suave and he certainly looks good. He does a nice job with the part, but he’s also one of my problems with the film.
Basically, near the end of the film, this starts to lose the team dynamic that was built up so well at the start and it becomes the Bradley Cooper show. Now this isn’t really Cooper’s fault, it’s more in the script and taking advantage that this guy is popular now and on the rise. I get that, I understand why they’re doing it, but it does hurt the film and shortchanges the rest of the main cast, in particular Copley. I would’ve liked this even more had they been more even with everyone for the final action scene.
Patrick Wilson plays CIA Agent Lynch and Brian Bloom (also one of the film’s writers) plays a leader of a private military contractor group and they’re the bad guys of the movie. They both do a pretty good job with this with Bloom getting to be the more venal of the two and Wilson getting to have the better dialogue moments. Jessica Biel plays Sosa and she’s my other problem with the movie. I’m sorry, I’m just not a fan and with the exception of her part in the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I tend to think she’s ill-cast in everything else that I see her in. This doesn’t really make any huge demands on her, but she doesn’t really bring anything to the table either.
This is the second of the three big “men on a mission” movies for the year. I prefer The Losers over The A-Team so far and am still hoping for greatness from The Expendables. Overall, director Joe Carnahan and the writers do a nice job of translating this TV series to the big screen, with the stumbles just being in a part of the casting and the amplification of one of the main characters over the others by the film’s end. If you have an appreciation for the TV series or love big over-the-top action films, you’ll have a pretty good time with The A-Team.