Review: The A-Team is a Plan that Definitely Comes Together
by Jeremy Kirk
June 14, 2010
The plan: Take a popular '80s television series and translate it to the big screen for a modern audience. Amp up the explosions. Kick up the comedy elements. Make it a solidly entertaining film for the summer movie masses. Get some kind of a wrestler/MMA star to fill Mr. T's shoes. I, for one, love it when a plan comes together, and The A-Team, the latest film from Joe Carnahan, executes the aforementioned plan to a T. Wildly entertaining and packed with as much charm as it is bang, the film hits on all cylinders, even if a little forgiveness is in order from time to time.
In case you didn't see the series the new film was based on, it centers on a group of former Army Rangers turned covert, combat unit. Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, Lt. Templeton "Faceman" Peck, Bosco "B.A" Baracus, and H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock (Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quintin "Rampage" Jackson and Sharlto Copley, respectively) each bring their own skills to the table. Teamed together, they face no challenges they can't overcome whilst leaving a slew of bodies and explosions in their wake. So, just imagine the damage they can do when the stakes become personal, and the mission is centered on revenge. That's precisely what the A-Team is out for after being set up and sent to prison. Daring prison escape sequences ensue, and the team moves on to their second order of business, clearing their names and taking the real bad guys down by any means necessary.
Carnahan, who wrote the screenplay for The A-Team along with Brian Bloom and Skip Woods, has been working his way into big budget, summer entertainment for years. While Narc was a hard-hitting drama, his BMW short, Ticker, and 2007's Smokin' Aces were essentially summer action movies minus the brand recognition of something like The A-Team. Both were high octane thrill-rides that didn't let up for a second even if they were loaded with plot line twists and turns throughout. While The A-Team isn't exactly full of those same twists and turns, it definitely delivers on the action, throwing the group into grand-scale predicaments at every chance it gets.
Many of these sequences must be forgiven for their logical nature for the sake of summer entertainment. Facing off against drone planes within a tank that is being floated by parachutes is one. Okay, we'll forgive that. Why? Because it looks cool. Maybe Weta's digital effects are completely up to snuff, but they are more than serviceable. Besides, the premise alone is quite inventive and you have to give credit for how well it is executed despite the actual look of the tank.
All the while, the quips and farce of the group serves the entertainment value, as well. Much of this comes from Copley. Murdock, apart from being a helluva pilot, is the comic relief of the group, and much of this stems from how bat-shit crazy the character is. While some of the gags with Murdock seem to be shoe-horned in (there is a Braveheart reference that is grossly out of place both within the film as well as the story), most of them are delivered with absolute fervor from Copley.
Amidst all the explosions and humor, though, there is a distinct sense of camaraderie within the group here. Carnahan does a nice job building connections between any, two members of the team, so, when things get a little hairy, there is a definite weight to it. You care what happens to these characters even if the predictability of how it is all going to play out is blatant.
A lot of this has to do with the story, but you have to give a lot of credit to the actors, as well. Everyone does their job splendidly. Neeson turns on the gravel in his voice with the best of them. Cooper delivers his usual level of charm. Copley's South African accent bleeds through at times, but it's barely noticeable. Even Jackson, the UFC-star-turned-actor, does a fine job with some of the drama he is given, the internal conflict Baracus faces after becoming a pacifist in prison. Maybe no one is at the top of their game here, but, much like the team at the center of the story, everyone gets the job done. Whether or not the means to the ends are pretty is irrelevant.
The same goes for the secondary story-lines. Jessica Biel plays a Department of Defense member who is trying to track the team down after they escape from prison. She has a history with Cooper's Face (a line that makes me chuckle even as I type it), and their scenes together are among the more meaningless in the film. Patrick Wilson plays a CIA agent who may or may not be at the top of the moral food chain. His character's story arc is probably the most predictable in terms of where it's headed. But Wilson plays the character with so much vehement playfulness, you really don't care that you see where he is headed from a mile away.
In the end, though, the plan comes together. It's a messy plan, one that requires some level of forgiveness, but there is nothing here that is so head-slappingly moronic as to take away from the entertainment. This A-Team offers in abundance. Between the action, the comedy and the keen sense of connection between the characters at the heart of it, The A-Team is solid fun, a driven and carousing blast of summer-style delight. That the people involved intended nothing more makes the end results all the more successful. It may not be at the highest level of the art, but Carnahan and, ultimately, the film as a whole delivers on its promise of B.A. entertainment.
Jeremy's Rating: 7.5 out of 10