There is some semblance of a story in The A-Team. I seem to recall the team members being framed for a crime they didn’t commit, a plot to recapture counterfeit treasury plates, a lot of double crossing, Bradley Cooper trying to rekindle a relationship with Jessica Biel, and scene after scene of escaping and jumping and falling and exploding and running and flying, most of them aided by heavy computer graphics and a very unsteady camera. That’s about it. Is this enough to sustain a nearly two hour film? I left the theater feeling as if I had seen a series of images flashing before my eyes, but not as if I had actually been told anything. Strange how you can be shown so much yet find that absolutely nothing is happening. Perhaps I should take comfort in that even nothing can look good on the big screen.
Am I at a disadvantage for not having seen a single episode of the show on which the film is based? This may be a case of me simply not getting it. In my defense, the show premiered five months before I was born and ended six months after my third birthday. Yes, yes, there are always reruns and DVD releases, but too much time has passed, and quite frankly, I no longer have any interest. If I’m to judge The A-Team, I only have the film adaptation to go on. So if any of you feel I’m ill-prepared to review it, feel free to stop reading and find a review written by a long time fan who understands the material. I for one feel that a movie should in some way appeal to all audiences and not merely fans of its source material. By alienating a sizeable audience, the only thing a filmmaker has achieved is creating an in-joke.
The A-Team is an aggressive, meandering, nonsensical flight of fancy so pumped up on testosterone that it practically oozes off the screen. We have a lot of cool things to look at – fireballs, shattering panes of glass, guys getting punched, cars getting smashed, tanks falling from the sky – but we’re given very little think about other than the blur of imagery we’ve just witnessed. Maybe if the film had paused long enough to tell a real story, all this could be forgiven. Alas, director/co-writer Joe Carnahan just keeps on shoving cinematic chaos in our faces, reserving the slower, quieter moments for puzzling character analyses and astonishingly shallow dialogue. What are we to make of B.A. Baracus’ claim that he no longer has it in him to kill anyone? Given how silly everything leading up to that moment is, are we really supposed to take that seriously?
I do have to hand it to the actors, though – they all seem to be having a lot of fun. And given the screenplay’s shortcomings, they give reasonably decent performances. Liam Neeson is likeably gruff as the cigar-smoking Col. Hannibal Smith, Bradley Cooper is delightfully arrogant as the womanizing Faceman Peck, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is amusing as the imposing (and aerophobic) B.A. Baracus, and Sharlto Copley is memorable as the certifiably insane Howling Mad Murdock. I wasn’t too impressed with Jessica Biel, however, as Capt. Charisa Sosa, who apparently is Peck’s ex-girlfriend; it’s not that the performance was bad, but the character certainly was unnecessary. It didn’t help that her role in the ever-twisting scheme to reclaim the stolen money plates becomes more and more difficult to define.
And then there’s Patrick Wilson as Col. Lynch, a man so sniveling and cocky he should hated just on general principles. He too wants to get his hands on the money plates. So does the equally loathsome Pike (Brian Bloom), who I think had something to do with the A-Team being wrongly accused and may be trying to sell the plates through an Arab backer. In order to get back at these two, the A-Team must concoct a number of elaborate escape attempts. The most interesting involved Murdock, committed to an insane asylum in Germany; he has the patients put on 3-D glasses and watch a projected film (which one I dare not reveal), and wouldn’t you know it, an actual tank bursts through the wall just as a tank in the film comes directly at the camera. At this point, I found myself wondering why the filmmakers didn’t bother releasing this film in 3-D, since that seems to be the trend nowadays.
There are probably legions of fans out there that will watch this film and scrutinize every detail, specifically in how faithful it is to the TV series. If you happen to be a part of it, and if you think I’m a killjoy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, please note that I admitted this right at the start. If you’re a fan, chances are you will enjoy The A-Team. If you’re like me and you grew up on other TV shows, you may find yourself at a loss to account for what’s going on and why. This is a loud, goofy, visually assaultive action extravaganza, one that makes no real attempt at a plot other than going from one inane stunt to the next. “I love it when a plan comes together,” says Hannibal near the beginning of the film. I love it when a plan comes together, too. If only that had happened in this movie.