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The A-Team (2010)


“I love it when a plan comes together.”

From 1983 to 1987, The A-Team followed the adventures of a group of Vietnam vets turned mercenaries as they helped the innocent, solved problems, and generally blew shit up. In 2010 they decided to make a movie of it, with none of the original cast and generally kicking the storyline back to its origin. How did they do? Let’s find out.

The A-Team is a 2010 action movie directed by Joe Carnahan, based on the 80’s television series of the same name. It stars Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Jessica Biel, Patrick Wilson, and Brian Bloom.

Right off we get to meet the primary players. John “Hannibal” Smith is being held captive by some corrupt Mexican police working for the renegade General Tuco, who mock him for carrying a gun with no firing pin (discovered when they try to execute him with it. Turns out he does have the firing pin, and it comes in damn handy for picking his cuffs. He’s an Army Ranger. He can do this. He sets out to rescue his partner Templeton “Faceman” Peck, currently held by Tuco’s men, and enlists the aid of a guy whose van he tries to hijack, one Bosco “B. A.” Baracus, who declines to be carjacked but, as a fellow Army Ranger, decides to help. Further hilarity ensues at Tuco’s ranch as they pick up Peck (likewise an Army Ranger) and they set out to make their escape with the help of cracked pilot H. M. Murdock, who they must pick up at an Army hospital. Oh yeah – he’s also an Army Ranger. We don’t know how. He’s also batshit crazy. The rescue consists of driving a truck through the wall (on which Murdock and the other inmates are watching an episode of The A-Team in 3-D) and skedaddling in a medical chopper during a dogfight that leaves Baracus with a fear of flying (not just flying with Murdock, but flying in general) and ends up with Hannibal leading Tuco into American military space, whereupon Tuco gets blown out of the sky.

And… breathe.

Eight years later, the boys are riding high as an elite Special Forces team. While stationed in Iraq, they are unofficially assigned to relieve some Iraqi insurgents of U.S. Treasury plates and about a billion dollars in currency. An old girlfriend of Face warns them away from the mission, but this is the A-Team, dammit, so they go after the plates and succeed in spades, but when they get back to base the plates, cash, and the only one who knows they were authorized to steal them get blown to kingdom come by an opposing private military firm called Black Forest. The A-Team are stripped of their rank, kicked out of the Army, and sentenced to ten years in prison. Now, you know they aren’t just going to let this slide. Fortunately, Hannibal is extremely patient, waiting for just the right moment… and when it comes, over-the-top action-movie physics ensue.

This movie follows in the spiritual footsteps of the series, with the clever chessmaster Hannibal cooking up plans, the handsome Faceman doing the social engineering bits, the aptly named “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock acting as the laser-guided Jack Sparrow of the group, and Barracus being the Big Scary Guy Who Hits Things. The movie serves as an origin story for the team, in much the same way that recent superhero films have covered the origins of familiar faces like Batman, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, and the Fantastic Four for the benefit of those who might have heard of them but are largely unfamiliar with the mythos, and it offers some nods to the original series as well. Liam Neeson is the most familiar face in the group, and he acts as a cool-headed father figure of sorts to the men, while Sharlto Copely (whom I’ve seen in exactly one other movie besides this one) is a lunatic with a pilot’s license and the origin of Barracus’ fear of flying. (Handy tip: never do a barrel roll in a medical helicopter that has the doors open.) The action is thrilling and gleefully over-the-top, and the moments when the proverbial plan comes together will have you cheering at Hannibal’s sheer ingenuity.

However, there were a few parts were the action was a bit too insane, and pushed me out of my comfortable suspension of disbelief (which must be loosely girded to begin with when watching a movie like this). The most notable scene has the lads escaping in a cargo jet containing a tank. Okay, fine. If it has wings, Murdock can fly it. A few attack drones come by a commence trying to shoot down said cargo jet. Fancy flying and battle damage ensue. Okay, fine. It’s an action movie. The cargo jet finally gets destroyed, and the team escapes in the tank, which is now parachuting down. Okay, fine. There’s really nowhere else for them to go, and the tank is the best alternative they have. The drones come by again and start trying to take out the falling tank, shredding a couple of the parachutes, so that the tank is now in near free-fall. Okay, fine. Of course the drones would still go after their target. Now for the silly part: Hannibal sees a lake below them, a fair stone’s throw that way. He has Face (IIRC) turn the tank’s turret and fire sideways, using Newton’s First and Third Laws to propel them in the opposite so they can splash down in the lake. That’s right. They flew a tank. Unfortunately, the laws of physics don’t work that way, and the Mythbusters already busted their technique of firing into the water to cushion the impact. But hey. This is an action movie. Action movies laugh at our silly preconceived notions of physics.

If you’re a fan of the 80’s series and you don’t mind heroes who essentially hack the physics engine of the real world to pull off hair-raising escapes, you’ll probably find The A-Team to be an enjoyable little romp through Action Movie Land. The spirit is largely the same, and with only a few complaints the action is thrilling and entertaining. Worth a rental.

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