Liam Neeson as Col. John Smith aka Hannibal
Bradley Cooper as Lt. Templeton Peck aka Face
Sharlto Copley as ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson as B.A. Baracus
Jessica Biel as Captain Charissa Sosa
Patrick Wilson as Agent Lynch
Gerard McRaney as General Morrison
Brian Bloom as Pike
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Based on the popular ’80s television show, “The A-Team” tells the origin of a group of four United States Ranger soldiers who are set up for a crime they did not commit. Out to clear their name, the team (Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Sharlto Copley and Quinton Jackson) must use their unique talents to prove their innocence while Captain Charissa Sosa (Jessica Biel) attempts to track them down.
Based on the popular cult 1980s TV show with a few changes to modernize the story but the heart of the show intact, “The A-Team” opens in Mexico where Liam Neeson’s Col. John “Hannibal” Smith and Bradley Cooper’s Lt. Templeton Peck a.k.a. “Face” are in a bit of trouble with their current mission involving corrupt Mexican military officers, so Smith recruits two ex-United States Rangers to help. 8 years and 80 plus missions later, the A-Team is born.
Where “The A-Team” movie shines is in its simplicity. There is no inner-team conflict, there is no political message and there really isn’t any complex, layered story that fans of the military tactical genre have been accustomed to in recent years. If one were to put the ’80s show on TV today, it would be ridiculed and canceled before the end credits. The A-team should be about a group of badass soldiers that not only need to connect to each other without a flaw, but also to connect with audiences emotionally.
Enter Joe Carnahan, director of the highly acclaimed “Narc” and the overly mixed to mostly negative “Smokin’ Aces.” Carnahan makes sure not to take himself too seriously with his biggest film to date and has fine-tuned the mix of action and comedy that some may have felt was a little hollow with “Aces.” This is where “The A-Team” thrives, a summer movie that offers everything you expect… provided you go in with the correct expectations, meaning that if you are going to roll your eyes about trying to fly an armored tank that is crashing down from high above the clouds, you might want to skip this film.
Carnahan is able to modernize the team for the current moviegoing generation, who should bring a bit more sophistication with them to the theater and expects a certain amount of legitimacy in order for a film to be a success or failure. However, to achieve this, Carnahan does not have his main focus on the story. Truthfully coming from a guy who grew up with the TV show, if you saw one episode, you pretty much saw the same week in and out. Simply put, both the original and the remake is successful from the heart found in the characters.
Headlining the movie is Liam Neeson’s as Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, the leader of the A-Team, who is always two steps ahead of the enemy. While his methods may always seem unconventional, the end and winning result always steers away predictable. Neeson’s Hannibal does at times feel a bit like a caricature of George Peppard’s version of the character with his clichéd love of country, trademark cigar, ethics and compassion for his men. Overall, the character is given the proper amount of strength and intelligence that is required for modern audiences to believe his men respect and do truly care for him.
After breakout performances in “The Hangover” and “District 9,” Bradley Cooper and Sharlto Copley actually come away with more memorable characters than what they brought to the screen last year. Cooper plays Lt. Templeton Peck, nicknamed “Face” for his good looks and charm. Face is the team’s con man so to speak, who is able to talk his way out of just as many conflicts as he talks himself into. Cooper’s “coolness” to the A-team is countered with Copley’s “crazy,” his “Howlin’ Mad” Murdoc is a genius when it comes to flying planes, helicopters or tanks but also is a mentally unstable pilot. Cooper and Copley should be the most memorable characters for both audiences of the original as well as newcomers to the story. There is a great amount of charm and camaraderie in each character that audiences should easily connect with. Added to the chemistry is the final member of the A-Team, Ultimate Fighter Quentin “Rampage” Jackson who plays B.A. Baracus, a role made iconic by Mr. T. Surprisingly, Jackson is able to stray away from the Mr. T version enough to not make the character his own, but rather, play a character that audiences aren’t constantly being reminded that Mr. T isn’t on the screen.
Rounding out the cast is the US government officers played by Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson. Biel plays Charissa Sosa, an ex-flame to “Face” and an acting captain with the United States military Criminal Defense Investigation unit stationed in Iraq, and she holds her own on screen, bringing a respectable blend of sexy and smart to the character. Patrick Wilson from “Watchmen” fame plays CIA operative Lynch, a character who is a bit of a mystery with his overall involvement to the story. Rest assured, by the end of the film you get to see just exactly who the character truly is and it’s one audiences should have some fun with.
The Bottom Line:
Make no mistake, “The A-Team” is a summer popcorn movie that lets you sit in your seat and be entertained by a finely-tuned pace and equally satisfying blend of action and humor. In the year of the action/buddy “let’s blow something up” film, “A-Team” shows films like “The Losers” and possibly “The Expendables” that The A-Team is often imitated but hardly duplicated, leaving audiences to get a quality kick, punch, explosion and most important, satisfaction when the plan comes together.