TIM LINCE: The A-Team

Starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel. Directed by Joe Carnahan. Released July 15 2010. Certificate 15. Genre – Action Adventure.

My thoughts before

THE audience for A-Team will be split into two camps – those who have seen and loved the original series and those who haven’t.

This reviews falls into the camp of the non-watchers, so I imagine all retro-ness will be non-existent and I’ll hopefully be able to look at this with fresh eyes. I’ll also obviously miss many of the references that may exist on the screen.

Anyhow, A-Team exists because of the seeming domination of remakes of 70s and 80s TV shows nowadays.


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Director Joe Carnahan, who was at the helm for the recent Smokin’ Aces, has decided to pick one of the few untouched shows out there, and what dire competition he has. Let’s look at the past remakes and see how they have fared:

• Dukes Of Hazzard (2005) – terrible, seriously embarrassing.

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• Knight Rider (2008, TV show) – horrible and cancelled quickly.

• Miami Vice (2006) – a joke to the original format.

• Transformers (2008) – the first was OK, the second was… abysmal.

There is also the upcoming remake of Hawaii Five-0 that’s out later this year on US television networks, starring Jin from Lost. I saw the pilot of this the other day and this looks like it breaks the mould in terms of dreadful remakes.

So, at least in my mind, hopes are hardly riding high for the A-Team, but who knows… maybe the past has taught the present a few lessons.

Afterwards

“I AIN’T gettin’ on no plane, foo’!”

My inexperience of the original series of the A-Team was something I regretted as I left the cinema today, because even I captured many of the references and was eager to actually get into the original show.

Of course it won’t have a thousandth of the budget that this big budget summer blockbuster has but the sheer buddiness of it all really sucked me in and I wanted to see more – as each plan was pulled off I was rejoicing along with the team.

See, what the A-Team managed so successfully was to walk a very fine line between being a tribute and also bringing something fresh to the table.

And did they stumble at all? At times, but the script (written by director Joe Carnahan) plods along at such a brisk pace and with so many different things going on that it felt like a whole season of the TV show in one explosion-filled sitting.

So much so that it felt, at times, like a huge-budget pilot for a television show – with characters fully developed and ready for the next mission, the audience waiting with baited breath for the next episode in a week.

The biggest surprise was Liam Nesson’s performance, as although I’d not seen the TV show (so was unaware of his character Hannibal) I thought it was an unusual casting decision – this is Oskar Schindler playing an action hero type, madness!

But his calm competency, his solid-as-a-rock persona really held the movie together. The other team members (familiar to everyone else – Peck, Murdoch and BA Baracus) all held their own and were all key cogs in each of the plans.

As they fought to bring down the traitors who had stolen some billion dollar objects (in a failed mission, where they were blatantly set up) we were whisked from Iraq to an American prison to Germany and back across the Atlantic to LA.

Little time is taken to rest, as each plan tended to be ridiculously well planned in small amounts of time – the audience looking on with a certain awe and sat back and enjoyed the crazy shenanigans on-screen.

The set-pieces were nothing short of spectacular at times, and truly held their own against other big budget summer blockbusters of the past few years. It was a lot simpler to follow (just about) than the confusing mess that was last year’s Transformers II and the explosions and special effects seemed to at least have a point – they were all part of intricate plans, that were often told to the audience as we watched them taking place.

The final 15 minutes, complete with a massive cargo liner at LA dock being blown to smithereens, looked amazing on the big screen and you really felt the force of what was going on. Also seeing a huge-style game of ‘which of the three cups is the ball under’ was an intelligent use of massive sets.

As the final plan set in motion (all like clockwork naturally) someone at the back of the theatre actually screamed “hell yeah!” and sat down again to control himself. We all nodded in agreement, fists clenched with the adrenaline these scenes were causing.

The highlight though, and one of my favourite cinema moments of the year, was a mid-air set-piece that I won’t forget for a long, long time. The sheer intensity of the five minutes, mixed with humour and thrills galore, was one of those truly mental moments of cinema that come so rarely – where the viewer grabs hold of the arm of the chair, sits right back in his seat, eyes fixed on the screen and with a huge smile on their face.

The mid-air highlight was utterly ridiculous but was well worth the ticket price alone.

Another thing that set A-Team apart is that it thankfully didn’t overstay it’s welcome. There were about four missions packed into the film, all wrapped neatly into 100 or so minutes.

If you remember most of the recent big budget hits recently (Avatar, Transformers II, Watchmen…) they tend to be 180 minutes plus. This could be classed as ‘value for money’ but if boredom sets in then, in my opinion, that’s just classed as wasting my time.

Yes, there were times when the plot seemed convoluted in twists and inane phone calls, but I think these points will only improve through repeated viewings. The first 40 minutes, basically a huge introduction, was ‘good’ but the movie only really got going after that point.

All-in-all though, the A-Team is a worthy tribute to a much loved show and crucially may have opened up the doors to an exciting new franchise.

Whether the stiff competition of Toy Story 3, Inception and the dastardly Twilight: Eclipse will stop this juggernaut from it’s much earned sequel remains to be seen, but from this showing it’s something that I’ll be very much looking for.

And if cinema studios don’t pick it up maybe, just maybe, we could have a lower budget (but just as thrilling) TV series?

“Ain’t gonna happen, foo’!”

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