It was my birthday on Sunday. This is relevant to The A-Team for two reasons: one, because part of my list of birthday demands included seeing a movie, and that the movie couldn’t be depressing; and two, because I turned twenty-eight, meaning I was born just about when the television series wrapped up. So we went to see The A-Team wanting nothing but fun, and I wasn’t in the least emotionally invested in the franchise because I never watched the show. This obviously means that I’m here wearing my movie critic hat while not having the full amount of background information. But no movie should be only relevant to those who are going in with all the history behind the subject; it could be better for those people, but it shouldn’t be the whole point. So that is my angle—I am uneducated in the subject of A-Teamerism, and only know Mr T from his cameos in ads for Snickers bars and his sympathetic emotions about people who are not as clever as he.
Really, you can’t fault The A-Team for its sheer bravado and willingness to be ridiculous. We are introduced to our first member of the Team, Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), as he is getting beaten by some ruffians just below the United States border. After his inevitable escape (involving the greatest moment of dealing with frothy Rottweilers this particular animal-sook reviewer has ever seen) he fatefully carjacks one Bosco “B.A.” Baracus (Rampage Jackson) and together they run off to save crafty ladies’ man Face (Bradley Cooper) from getting set on fire by some angry and corrupt policemen. To escape this particularly angry bunch of cops, they enlist the help of batshit pilot Murdock (District 9’s Sharlto Copley and a myriad of accents), currently a psychiatric inmate at a hospital but soon to be piloting our heroes with a hospital helicopter out of international airspace and back home to a big fricking explosion and where the opening credits finally end, stamping out: THE A-TEAM. It’s gloriously stupid and fun, and sets the tone for the whole stupid and fun movie to follow.
After eight years together saving the world, the Team are in Iraq. They are asked by CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson, unrecognisably skinny and blonde and playing the polar opposite to soft touch Nite Owl II from Watchmen) to recover some American banknote plates that are conveniently just around the corner in Baghdad. Their commander pleads with Hannibal not to take the job, but they do. Of course. Because it’s the heroic thing to do, right? So our four boys launch themselves into a complicated mission to recover the plates, which is loud, explody and successful—to a point. Finding themselves framed for the murder of a dear friend, they are stripped of their ranking and shipped into different prisons—because having them altogether would mean they’d bust out in twenty minutes. Instead, and with help, it’s six months.
The subsequent escapes and journey to clear their names are chock full of corn and fun. In prison, B.A. has renounced violence, leaving him unable to kill anyone, even those who killed his friend. He is also scared of flying, and thus continually tricked into getting on planes and helicopters. The rest launch themselves into every situation—including falling out of a plane in a tank with parachutes—with abandon. And I was happy to abandon myself into a world where this was all entirely feasible. I had a blast.
While the surprise enemy is fairly predictable (Chris got it, but I did lead him on with some partially inaccurate speculation of my own) and the message unknown (blow shit up?) the film itself loves to surprise you with wacky plans and is fairly light on seriousness, blood and sex. On the girl front, Captain Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel, in a surprising love-interest role where she never has to get her kit off or do anything out of character for a member of the United States Army) is Face’s romantic past, and apparently the only one with honourable intentions in wanting to capture them. I was interested to see if the movie would use B.A.’s need for peaceable outcomes as a device to save the day in a convoluted, pain-free way, but an unexpected and depressing Gandhi quote from Hannibal makes him reconsider and created the only aspect of the movie that felt awkward. (Perhaps the message is: Killing is okay if Liam Neeson says so in that lovely voice of his?)
I may have missed some glaring in-jokes, and perhaps they ruined the original A-Team’s carefully constructed vibe. But from an outsider’s perspective, this was a pretty good movie. If you’re desperate for cameos from some of the original cast, you’re going to have to sit through the end credits to get to them. If you’re desperate to see the original B.A., you may as well stay home with the television and wait for the ads. All I know is that if they bother to repeat the tv show now, I will definitely be watching.