Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Premise: An adaptation of the 1980s television series. An elite Army Ranger team is framed for a crime they did not commit. The team members escape from prison and attempt to clear their names.
What Works: The A-Team is one of the best television-to-feature-film adaptations ever made. It captures all the essential elements of the television show but is not a slave to them and effectively translates the series from its kitschy roots into a contemporary action film. The A-Team is very well cast, with Liam Neeson as Colonel Hannibal, Bradley Cooper as Face, Sharlto Copley as Murdock, and Quinton Jackson as B.A. Baracus. Each of these actors fills their roles nicely, occupying specific character territory and contributing to a team that is bigger than the sum of its parts. The action scenes of The A-Team are exemplary; the staging and cinematography effectively convey a sense of direction (rather than collapsing into a cacophony of explosions) and the cross cutting between the planning and the event give the action a sense of purpose and speed up the storytelling. But what really stands out about The A-Team and makes it a successful film is its humor. The film is serious about its action but never goes too long without a good joke, which keeps the tone of the film upbeat and creates a lot of empathy for its characters.
What Doesn’t: The A-Team could be charged with looking like every other action film made recently and to some extent that charge does stick. The action scenes of The A-Team could be swapped out with similar scenes from recent films like The Losers or G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and it would be hard to tell the difference in style. To some extent this film is a product of Hollywood Studio Action Filmmaking 101 and there is a lack of surprise or soul to the style of the picture. The humor eases and distracts from the visual clichés but they are there.
Bottom Line: At a time when a lot of films, television shows, cartoons, and action figure toy lines of the 1980s are being franchised, remade, or rebooted, The A-Team stands as one of the best and a model of how it ought to be done. While it may not be a film for the ages, it is a lot of fun.
Episode: #293 (June 20, 2010)