In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… The A-Team.
That’s all well and good for the original A-Team, but what about their shiny-new contemporary counterparts?
Starring: Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley,
Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel
Director: Joe Carnahan
Company: Dune Entertainment/20th Century Fox
Hey folks, I’m sure this is no surprise, but my review might possibly spoil some parts of the movie for you. If you have any urge to see this one in theaters, I suggest that you stop reading this article, go watch the flick, then come back to the review. You’ll be glad you did.
I Love It When A Plan Comes Together
The A-Team starts off with a couple of small vignettes, used to set up out main characters: Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), a man who, given enough time, can create foolproof plans for any situation; B.A. Baracus (Quinton Jackson), strongman and expert driver who pities no fool (I had to work it in somewhere!); Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Bradley Cooper), master of disguise and unrepentant ladies man; and “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley), the best stunt pilot in around and also BAT-S**T INSANE. These vignettes all come together in the end, and wrap up the first 15 minutes of the movie, all before an old-school title card. Nice.
Eight years later (making this the near-ish future), the A-Team has become the top covert military task force stationed in Iraq, and a major contributor to America winning the war on terror (see, I told you it was the future!). On the eve of a massive pullout of Iraq, word comes in that some American currency minting plates, long thought lost, have resurfaced in the hands of the enemy. CIA Agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) asks Hannibal and the boys to recover the plates, but the team’s commanding officer (Jessica Biel) is completely against the mission. The A-Team is given clearance for the mission by the acting general; however, due to some inside sabotage from a rival military force, the general is killed and the plates are stolen.
Seeing as the general was the only person who had OK’d the mission, the A-Team is tried, convicted of treason and murder of a commanding officer, stripped of their rank, and sentenced to jail time in separate prisons. Andother six months go by, and Agent Lynch pays a visit to Hannibal, explaining that the plates have been spotted, and the USA nees the A-Team to retrieve them once again. Long story short, Hannibal, Face, B.A., and Murdock all break out, track the plates down, and take care of the bad guys, all while executing some of the most outlandish and ridiculously awesome stunts I’ve ever seen. There is a massive twist about halfway through the movie that I am purposly leaving out, so you all need to go see this flick to get the rest of the story.
Montages and Awesome Explosions
First and foremost, this movie is very true to the original source material, or more accurately, as true to the source as they’re going to get without being an out-and-out ripoff. I also want to say right now that my description of the film truly doesn’t do it justice. This is a movie that really has to bee seen to get the full effect of the plot, action, and, oddly enough, comedy. It also moves at a breakneck pace, many times interweaving quick cut of the team planning out their next caper within scenes of the team actually pulling off the crazy scheme. This keeps things from getting too bogged down and wordy, which for a no-brain summer action flick, I’m OK with. The only problem I had with the pacing is that sometimes lesser details are glossed over or outright skipped. For example, at one point in the back half of the film, the team moved operations from Germany to Louisiana with little or no on-screen notification. Of course, I may have just missed that explanation due to my Big Gulp of Dr. Pepper kicking in.
The cinematography was done mainly with “shaky-cam,” almost like there was a silent, unseen fifth member of the A-Team whose only job was to record the various members’ exploits. There wasn’t enough of a shake to cause any kind of distraction or stomach discomfort, so no worries about that. I had no complaints about the music; for the most part, it was standard “action-flick” fare. I did like how, from time to time, the original television show theme song was worked in. That was a nice touch.
I Ain’t Gettin’ On No Plane, Hannibal!
For the most part, everyone in this film did an excellent acting job. Liam Neeson was bold and crafty without becoming pompous or big-headed, which is a hard line to balance on. I only wish, and this is no sleight on his acting ability, but I wish he could have hid his accent a little better. Oh well, can’t win them all, I guess. Face was obviously supposed to be set up as our “main character” of sorts, and Bradley Cooper did a fine job filling that role. Smart and commanding when he needed to be, and cocky as all get out the rest of the time, Cooper knocked it out of the park. Jessica Biel nailed her role as the no nonsense head of the military installation tasked with retrieving the A-Team. Agent Lynch, portrayed by Patrick “Owlman” Wilson, was all kinds of excellent as the “pseudo-villain” of the piece. I’m not sure how he was able to muster that big of an inflated ego, or how the director was able to fit it all on screen, but somehow they got it to work.
In my opinion, however, the actor who really stole the show was Sharlto Copley. This is Copley’s second major motion picture (the first being the excellent District 9), and the material given for the part of Murdock was very much a 180-degree reverse from anything we’ve seen from him. I got to tell you all, watching Copley run around like a mad man was some of the most ridiculously entertaining acting I’ve seen in a while. He was setting people on fire, he kept switching into various accents, he tried to jumpstart a pickup truck with a medical defibrillator, at one point he impersonated a doctor and stitched a lightning bolt onto B.A.’s arm, he… well, you get the idea. On the flip side of this, unfortunately Quinton Jackson was probably the weakest link of the film, not because he was bad by any stretch, but because of his relative inexperience in acting, which was heightened by all of the excellent acting around him. I’m not sure if there was anyone out there that could have done a better job, but a part of me really wanted to see B.A. match the larger-than-life personality of Mr. T.
All in all, The A-Team isn’t going to change the world – there aren’t any really hidden meanings or morals to the story. It’s just a “Big Dumb Summer Action Flick.” An incredibly well done film, one that I think will be fondly remembered by action movie enthusiasts for years to come, but “Big Dumb Summer Action Flick” nonetheless. And while I can always appreciate a good gripping drama or heady intellectual indie film, sometimes I just want to see stuff blow up. I give The A-Team 3 ½ stars (or exploding helicopters) out of 5.