I grew up watching The A-Team. Like most young boys at the time, it didn't matter to me that the bad guys didn't die, or that no one on the show could hit the broad side of a barn. The show was nothing more than an action based military comedy. Kind of like Lethal Weapon, only with former soldiers. I have no illusions as to the artistic merit of the show, but I LOVED IT!! And when I heard that Hollywood was going to make a movie, I was psyched!!
Within the first few minutes of the movie, I knew they had nailed it. They got the characters pitch perfect and yet managed to update and modernize every single one of them. If I hadn't seen it myself, I would never have believed it.
First let's talk about the casting. It's been my curious experience that most bands of insane people tend to have a mostly normal leader. In my mind, that makes the leader the most scary of the bunch since all these insane people cede their allegiances to the NORMAL ONE! So, how crazy is THAT person? Nowhere is this more true than in The A-Team. As wacked out as Face, H.M. Murdock, and B.A. Baracus are, they don't come CLOSE to touching the level of crazy that lives in the mind of Hannibal. And he was the one part of this movie, I had the most qualms about. George Peppard managed to create a person who commanded respect & loyalty, and at the same time could believably relish being vicious and outwitting any & all would-be challengers. It's a tricky role to play in any genre, but in an action comedy it's all too easy to make Hannibal overly campy. I have no doubt in Liam Neeson's acting ability, but no amount of good acting can completely overcome bad writing. Thankfully, Liam got Hannibal down effortlessly. With one line, he summed up not only his talents, but those of the rest of the team as well.
"Give me a minute, I'm good. An hour, I'm great. Give me six months, and I'm unbeatable!"
Bradley Cooper as Face was an inspired choice. After watching "The Hangover" (Cooper's audition for the role), I knew he wasn't the best choice, he was THE ONLY CHOICE for the role. Cooper nailed that mix of boyish innocence, macho charm, and military capability like he was born to it. The scene with him in a bathrobe in prison was priceless!!
I first saw Sharlto Copley in District 9. I was impressed with his acting ability in that film. He showcased a HUGE array of emotions through that performance. But that movie gave NO indication at all how awesome he would be as Murdock. The scene that nailed it for me was when he was hanging off of the helicopter blades singing "Spin Me Round". After that, he was Murdock. Plain and simple.
And then there's Rampage Jackson. The one role that is the easiest to overplay is B.A. Baracus. Watching the show, it's easy to miss the real affection B.A. has for his fellow teammates, not to mention his mechanical genius. Jackson hit each one of those beats exceptionally well. Even the sub-plot of his switch to non-violence, played well.
As for the story of the movie, the plot covered the formation of the team, the crime they did not commit, the escape, and the aftermath of that decision. Fairly stock stuff, but "The A-Team" did it with style! I loved how they worked the original theme music for the tv show into the movie. I'm not going to ruin that for you, dear readers. When you watch the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about.
The other big thing about the movie that I liked was that it didn't take any potshots at our military forces. There was a scene near the beginning just after Face's "rescue" where he is at the height of being himself, when he finds out that B.A. is a fellow Army Ranger, the act fades away and he gives B.A. a simple, sincere, "Thank you". It was a small moment in the film but it was an awesome moment, simply because it showed the respect soldiers have for each other on an individual level. Sure, there are rivalries, but there's always respect.
The only other movie I have seen from this director was Smokin Aces, and I was surprised how much action Joe Carnahan could play out on the screen and NOT lose his audience at all. With The A-Team, Carnahan just displayed more of the same, giving a fantastic amount of action, yet managing to keep the balance and maintaining a solid thread of continuity that allows the audience to be amazed and thrilled without being overwhelmed by the action on screen.
Now, I can honestly say that I don't expect this movie to win any Oscars. I'm sure that the more technical critics out there could rip it apart, but given the source material, this was the greatest movie it could be without violating the tenets of what The A-Team is. A fun ride with good people and LOTS of explosions!