Friday, June 11, 2010

The A-Team


If I may indulge a little bit first, my friends and I have an affinity for The A-Team. After all, back in the days when it was cool to form a clan and hangout at internet cafes to hone our skills in a game of Counterstrike, we called ourselves something similar, and adopted nicks / personas that mirrored the crew to some extent, with a real officer leading the team, my handle being Face, and another called Mr E rather than T. Those were the good old days, and we'd even come up 49th in the national championships (erm, out of 50!)

That aside, The A-Team movie is graded A for action, comedy and plenty of fun. It's been a long time since I last seen a film that didn't take itself too seriously, and looked like everyone had a jolly good time in bringing to the silver screen one of television's enduring series in the 80s, coupled with what epitomized the spirit of what made Hannibal, Face, B.A. Baracus and Murdock household names back then, being the mercenaries for hire after breaking out of prison following being wrong accused of a crime they didn't commit.

Director Joe Carnahan, who also co-wrote the story with Brian Bloom (who plays one of the villains Pike) and Skip Woods, they did what the Star Trek team of 2009 did for that film, in bringing a modern day update to a series that has a cult following, and giving it their own spin while keeping true to its essence. I've enjoyed Carnahan's Narc and Smokin' Aces before, and his filmography positions him well in balancing action and comedy, knowing when to be serious, and when to go over the top. The A-Team film is an origin film, taking that iconic monologue in the opening credits of the TV series, and expanding it to a feature length film including giving reason behind why B.A Baracus just hates flying.

In this update, we are thrown to Mexico to witness the formation of the quartet of crack soldiers, with Hannibal (Liam Neeson) stopping B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson) in his van, forming a pact to save Face (Bradley Cooper) before escaping the country with the last minute recruitment of the best military pilot available in the crazy Murdock (District 9's Sharlto Copley). Then comes 8 years and 80 over successful missions that this Alpha clandestine team has under its belt in the Iraqi theatre of war, and just as the US forces are about to withdraw from Iraq comes a mission that only The A-Team can pull off, involving the retrieval of plates uses for counterfeiting the US100 dollar bill. However, with the involvement of the DoD represented by Jessica Biel's Captain Charisa Sosa, Face's ex-flame, and that of the CIA as led by agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) while having to deal with private security mercenaries (yep, updated for today's environment) means our team is caught in-between a rock and a hard place, being framed for a crime they did not commit, and breaking out only to clear their innocence and get back at their betrayers.

It's the opening action sequence in Mexico that will set the tone for the rest of the action to come - to believe the ridiculous, since every sequence crafted has the meticulousness of the plan put on screen like how heist movies do it, but nicely edited so that repetition is kept to the minimum, if at all. Action sequence follow action sequence, and they're all wickedly done in making you laugh, while at the same time bewildered at just how they manage to pull off those unbelievable caper, some which you'll catch a glimpse of in the trailers.

The story's kept really snappy with witty one-liners, and wonderful characterization for what's essentially a lightweight, action-packed fare, and I suppose that's also thanks to the television mythos having to develop the characters so much so that fans will know what to expect, and with enough in the tank to convert new ones. The casting was also spot on, with Liam Neeson providing gravitas as the undisputed, honourable leader of the pack and the brains for operations, and Bradley Cooper with charisma and charm enough to make a believable Face and right hand man. Quinton Jackson has it tough to be B.A. Barnacus without being Mr T other than adopting that mohawk and attitude, providing some laughs with his fear of flying no thanks to Murdock, where Sharlto Copley steals the show from everyone else with his crazy antics and doing just about what's impossible (or even hilariously suicidal!)

But that said, this film did not become like the cinematic version of Mission Impossible, where a story about the essentials of teamwork eventually becoming a one-man show based on a character which didn't even exist in the original TV series. The nature, integrity and composition of The A-Team is always maintained, and with each operation you're left eager to expect just what each character will bring to the table in terms of their expertise, which the cast brings to life with ease thanks to their excellent chemistry with one another, filling the atmosphere with the right doses of comedy before fast paced action.

As with most adaptations, the original cast members will be given some screen time to please fans in a fun filled cameo, and it's somehow a pity that Mr T did not agree with the making of this film, which resulted in the remaining cast having to grace their presence in the coda at the end of the credits instead. So true blue fans, don't leave your seat until the end for a scene which is guaranteed to tickle your funnybone.

Forget about the summer films that went before it this year. The A-Team represents just what it means to be a popcorn summer blockbuster film with all the right ingredients in entertainment. Highly recommended, and I won't be surprised if this sneaks into the shortlist for one of the best this year, purely based on the amount of fun that came along with it! Here's hoping there will be future adventures with the same amount of spirit!

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