Thursday 12 January 2012


(Joe Carnahan, 2010)

How to walk the fine line between silly and stupid? Ask Joe Carnahan, who manages to make his adaptation of the massively successful 80s action series irredeemably silly without ever quite tipping over into stupidity. He gets the tone just right; the particulars of the plot, the iron cast cliches of the Globe-trotting heist-cum-conspiracy involving mercenaries, the US Military and the CIA: all this is played absolutely straight, all tough guy dialogue, fast-cutting and slick visuals. But the iconic characters of the four members of the A-Team themselves, while reproduced quite faithfully from the tv show, are cartoonishly appealing and leavened with only the slightest traces of realism.
We have Liam Neeson as Col. Hannibal Smith, the cigar-chomping man with the plan, Bradley Cooper letting his smug smoothness carry his work as Lt Templeton "Faceman" Peck, UFC star Quinton Jackson as Bosco "B.A." Barracus, the hard man with a fear of flying, and Sharlto Copley as Murdock, insane pilot and comic relief. Copley gets most of the funny bits, and his Murdock has a genuine edge of suicidal mania absent from the original. Patrick Wilson's villain is witty and interesting by the standards of the genre; CIA Agent as ivy league City trader, he invokes Call of Duty, appreciates combat acumen and code names as "awesome", and is generally a post-Tarantino reading of the standard action movie villain. Jessica Biel has less of interest to do, but she gets perhaps the film's single funniest line (it works better in context): "They're trying to fly a tank".
The story is an origin story; depicting the first time the four characters work together, and how they are framed and imprisoned for a crime they didn't commit, it skips from Mexico to Iraq to Germany to Los Angeles and takes in nocturnal raids on convoys, assassination, prison escapes and gunfights in city centres.
The real silliness, however, is reserved by Carnahan for his set-pieces. The aforementioned tank-flying is inspired, but each of the big action scenes manages to combine thrills with laughs. Only the climax - a big face-off in the classic action movie setting of. Dock - is a slight letdown, with too much shoddy cgi (and even then, that is almost balanced by a couple of fine action and character beats).
Carnahan directs all well - though it strays too FA towards visual incoherence on a few occasions - it's funnier than many comedies, and it contains the them from the tv show.
But more than that, all you really need to know: they fly. A tank.

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