Monday, June 14, 2010

The A-Team (2010) – Review

The A-Team is a summer movie – high on outlandish action, full of humor, low on meaningful plot – but hey good summer movies are a lot of fun, and this is a good summer movie. The film succeeds on its characters. For a movie like this to work, the audience has to relate to and ultimately like the protagonists. Here, they do. Each character, while short of depth, has a unique quality and an absolute likability to them, which benefits the film in two ways – first the audience generally likes them and backs them and routes for them and second each viewer will have a favorite, and the film gives each character their moments. The film is unapologetic in its structure. It knows exactly what it is and who it is meant for, and this is a strong attribute to the film. It does have great sequences of action, implausible but wholly enjoyable stunts and feats. There are some dramatic threads in the piece, but they neither predominate nor bog down the film. They are there merely for plot, which is fairly straightforward, but does it need to be anything more? The film also succeeds on its humor. There are a number of very funny moments and lines that offer a good break from and a complimentary aspect to the action. Another aspect to the film that works well is having the characters grounded in reality. While the action and stunts seem to be completely insane and impossible (though these guys are the best of the best and theoretically can do stuff that others cannot, but still some of the stuff is pretty crazy), the characters themselves are grounded and have stock in real life emotions and cares that are relatable. Again, this endears them to the audience and is fundamentally why the film works as well as it does – if the viewers do not care about the characters (much like any movie really) the film would just be silly meaningless action. However, while the film is good for what it wants to be, it does not offer a lot in terms of powerful meaningful drama. The characters are all shallow and their interrelationships are not explored in any kind of depth. Their emotional journeys are fairly cliché, but that works here for this film’s purpose as it allows for the audience to associate with them without much work. Director Joe Carnahan shows here that he can deliver a fun action film that both incorporates some reality and grittiness, while being completely bombastic and extreme (sort of a composite of Narc and Smoking Aces). Carnahan also does a good job with the narrative structure. The film is constantly moving forward – while the intro does seem long, it plays more as a prologue than as part of the film, overall the structure holds tight and keeps the audience engaged. Alan Silvestri’s score is good at times and disappears at others. Charles Wood’s production design is passable, but most of it is shrouded in darkness for many of the scenes, and it is more due to the locations and cinematography that the film looks good than his work. Mauro Fiore’s lighting and camera work is good (not as great as his work on Avatar, but comparable to The Kingdom). He is able to get the most out of the locations and keep the focus of the action and actors. The greatest attribute of the film was its performances and they were good across the board. Jessica Biel and Brian Bloom are good in supporting roles, while Patrick Wilson is great in his part. Quinton Jackson, having probably the most iconic of the roles to live up to, is good in the role and seems to fit it well. Bradley Cooper has a lot of charisma and Liam Neeson is spot on. However, it is Sharlto Copley who steals the show. He is hilarious and kooky (and with just two films under his belt, I cannot wait to see him in lots of stuff to come). Big action, loud effects, funny jokes, and great characters – these are what makes The A-Team work and an entertaining summer movie. 7/10 

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