I’m going to admit it up front: I rather enjoyed this film. I’m not saying that it’s perfect by any means, but it was an entertaining way to spend two hours in the cinema. There were laughs, there was spectacle, there were explosions, there was characterisation, there was fun. Admittedly, there was also excessive editing, excessive noise, silly plotting and a feeling that this was a 15-rated film masquerading as a 12A, but on balance the positives outweighed the negatives. Just.
Because of the Orange ads running in front of all movies for seemingly for ever, it felt that you had already watched The A-Team film, what with seeing the flying tank scene week in, week out. But there are sufficient diversions to keep you amused. The film starts as it means to continue: at speed, noisily and not bothering to make that much sense. The getting the group together at the start almost has the feel of the old-fashioned Bond pre-sequences – a quick example of the sort of stuff you’re going to get and the manner in which it will be delivered. Then with a quick ‘Eight years and eighty successful missions later’, we’re into the story – effectively, The A-Team Begins. [An aside: we’re getting a lot of origin stories at the moment, aren’t we? Is it because franchise is the new king of cinema, and the proven formula of ‘how it all began’ is the easiest hit for ‘give them what they know’?]
The story itself – some stuff about the being Iraq and treasury plates and lots of money and things going wrong and the A-Team being wrongly imprisoned and then going out to clear their name – is mostly irrelevant; it’s just there for the film to exist. It’s there to allow for the outrageous flying tank scene or the rather nicely plotted heist scene (where the action and the planning are shown flitting between each) or the huge climax with implausibly big action (and rather a lot of CGI). Joe Carnahan directs with crazed abandon, hurtling the story along and throwing everything into the mix. He suffers a little from the excessive editing disease that has infected action cinema of late, meaning that some scenes lose their power by the fact that they happen too fast. However, he does a good job and approaches the film with the right tone of stupidity and fun that the material needs.
The other important aspect of the film is the team itself – they distinguish what makes this adaptation of the television series worth doing in the first place. For all the goofiness of the show that I watched as a youngster, we kept coming back for Hannibal, Face, BA Baracus and Murdock. In this respect, they get it half right: Quinton Jackson as BA may look the part, but he doesn’t add anything else to the character (and his voice sounds a little high, although I probably wouldn’t say that to his face); Liam Neeson may look the part, but he can’t do comedy, which is an element required for that charm that George Peppard had. On the plus side, Bradley Cooper has the required easy-going charisma and grin for Face, and Sharlto Copley (so good in District 9) is a lot of fun playing it over the top as Murdock; these two successfully bridge the balance of channelling what was good about the original characters but doing their own thing with it.
There are some other good things I enjoyed, such as the nice reveals that show the thought behind the plans for the action (such as the final escape set-up), or Patrick Wilson as the creepy CIA man, but there were also things that I didn’t enjoy, such as Carnahan thinking he can put himself in a small cameo in the film and thinks he can get away with it (he can’t, and he should nip that in the bud before he goes completely Tarantino). But I enjoyed it: I had fun and I won’t turn it off when it comes on television in three years’ time.