Director: Joe Carnahan
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Quinton Jackson, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson
RunTime: 1 hr 57 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Official Website: http://www.ateam-movie.com/
Opening Day: 10 June 2010
THE A-TEAM follows the exciting and daring exploits of a colorful team of former Special Forces soldiers who were set up for a crime they did not commit. Going "rogue," they utilize their unique talents to try and clear their names and find the true culprit.
The '80s television series The A-Team was perfect formula for a summer blockbuster. It had plenty of over-the-top action (or as much as an extravagant budget of a TV episode at that time could afford). It had a good sense of humour, both verbal and physical. And most of all, it had a quartet of distinctive characters that had great chemistry with one another- the intelligent leader of the pack Hannibal, the smooth-talking wise-cracking Face, the unpredictable temperamental H.M. (Howling Mad) Murdock and last but not least, the resident strongman B.A. (Bad Attitude) Baracus.
It has taken almost twenty years for The A-Team to make the leap from the goggle box to the big screen (the last episode aired way back in 1987) and boy is this fan glad that they didn't screw it up. In fact, you know what, this fan is delighted, thrilled even- for director Joe Carnahan's big-screen update not only pays homage to the TV series and some of its classic moments, it also brilliantly revives the material for a new generation born and bred of a different War.
While the origin of The A-Team in the TV series was the Vietnam War, here Hannibal and his elite team of highly skilled special operatives are brought together as Iraq war veterans. In a fantastic extended opening sequence, Carnahan introduces his audience to the quartet and establishes how they came to be- and how B.A. Baracus develops his fear of flying. Just this opening alone is enough to convince you that the new cast of Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson and Sharlto Copley have just as much chemistry as the cast in the original TV series.
The Iraq War turns out to be more than just an excuse to bring back the guys- Carnahan, Brian Bloom (who has a supporting role in the film as one of the baddies Pike) and Skip Woods have weaved a story that is keenly aware of the eccentricities- private contractors, secret collusions between the CIA and the US military, and the ever-alluring hint of profit- of this very War that the United States is still finding its way out of. But despite its good intentions, there's no denying that the story is really just a sideshow to what the A in A-Team really stands for.
That's right- it's all about the Action, and in that regard, fans of the TV series can rest easy that Carnahan's update has the same brand of outrageous action that the original was famous for. Case in point- Hannibal and his crew's daring breakout from military prison after being framed that involves evading two fighter drones while on board a Hercules C-130 and piloting a tank in mid-air as it descends from 20,000 feet above the ground. I kid you not, cynics will dismiss the action here as cartoonish, and they would be right but also so wrong- because it is precisely this wild, no-holds-barred style of action that fans will devour and indeed, anyone with any sense of fun will enjoy tremendously.
Besides the OTT action, Carnahan's film also retains the same wry sense of humour that was a winning combination in the original. As with the series, there is a running gag with B.A. Baracus' fear of flying that coupled with H.M. Murdock's affinity for dangerous situations- especially in midair- make for some hilarious moments in the film. To make the character more accessible, Carnahan and his writers have also toned down the more disturbing aspects of Murdock's mental condition in the original series in favour of more broad humour often spun off from his almost-foolish sense of fearlessness.
Of course, what makes the A-Team work- as always- is its excellent cast. Liam Neeson brings much gravitas to the respected de facto leader of the team Hannibal and proves he looks just as good as George Peppard chewing a cigar. Bradley Cooper is suave and charming as the ladies man Face. Quinton Jackson doesn't match up to Mr T's iconic performance as B.A. (though I doubt anyone can), but does a competent enough job dead-panning as the no-nonsense strongman who unwittingly finds himself the butt of the team's jokes. But the scene-stealer here is no doubt Sharlto Copley (previously seen in District 9) whose uninhibited performance as H.M, complete with wide eyes and maniacal grin, is quite simply a hoot.
It's always a good sign when the makers show respect for their material and fans will agree that Carnahan has definitely gone the distance to make sure that his update stays true to the spirit of the original. The action is just as outrageous, the humour is intact, and the chemistry among the cast is still as fresh and lively- just for diehard fans of the TV series, the distinctive tune is still alive, the classic voiceover introduction is still there and there's even a short snippet of the TV series inserted for good measure (updated in 3D no less). Yes, when Hannibal says his signature line- "I love it when a plan comes together"- you can be sure that youíll be cheering that this A-Team came together exceedingly well.
(Score A for a summer blockbuster that packs the originalís over-the-top action and great character chemistry for a rollicking good time- and the most fun you'll have at the cinemas so far this summer)
Review by Gabriel Chong