There is something about translating a popular television programme into a movie. Whether it’s The Simpsons or The Inbetweeners it appears to be the rite of passage for a piece of creative work to find its place on the large screen. Not all of these work out, The A-Team is one that does and not only does it work superbly as a model of converting a cult television classic to the large screen it is a great template for the modern action movie.
For the uninitiated The A-Team was a massive television hit of the 1980’s. Any boy growing up in Britain in the mid-late 80’s and early 90’s would have spent many a Saturday afternoon/evening watching the adventures of a group of fugitive soldiers who help people gain a sense of justice when no one else will help. It was a fascinating programme for the time and worked on the premise that people would suspend reality to engage in a fantasy that had sufficient amounts of reality in it. For example I don’t recall that much blood being shown during the TV series and it was notorious for the lack of people that actually died in it, despite being an action programme.
Almost 20 years later, the efforts of the movie producers to bring this favourite to the large screen has worked a treat for a number of valuable reasons. Firstly the characters. It would be easy to just pick four guys who look and act like the guys we’re used to on the television series. It would be easy, in essence to get a bunch of impersonators. Showing great respect, however, they get four quality actors who give believability in themselves for the part.
Quinton Jackson is not Mr. T doing B.A. – he is Jackson as B.A. who is not about aping the mannerisms that made T’s so popular and is more into carving his own take on the character, and he doe it extremely well – especially considering acting is not his ‘day job’. Bradley Cooper as Face is a masterstroke, because his looks, his charm and his investment in the character makes it an inspired choice for the role.
Sharlto Copley, who plays Murdock, is just ridiculous for how great he does ‘mad’, it is the proverbial hand slipping comfortably in the glove. Big props has to go to Liam Neeson. If there’s one guy who typifies doing things his way rather than being a tribute act to the last guy it is Neeson. He is Hannibal, but he’s not George Peppard and again for such a consummate actor Neeson does a terrific job in the role.
So the characters are a slam dunk. Yet it’s all well and good having good characters, it’s also important to have a good story to put them in and that is where this movie really excels. As with a number of movies on popular characters they take the origin story as their point of contact. They space it out really well to how the four came together and established a reputation for excellence in their field. Then moving onto how they get framed for a crime they didn’t commit as part of a plot for certain nefarious sources in high places to gain financial gain from their deeds. The hunt for revenge from the escaped foursome has good twists and turns involving female interest that’s not there for her good looks, but is essentially used to forward the story and create further intrigue.
The story works as well because the bad guys are not two dimensional baddies. These are bad guys with a veneer of authenticity as well as murkiness. Crucially as well they work as comic relief with some cute snappy one-liners and quips that punctuate the film and remind viewers that this is an action film not a moody thriller.
From start to finish the movie works out really well as an enjoyable sit-down and chill action film with great performances and a solid story that keeps you interested throughout. It is a film that you would enjoy at the cinema and then enjoy again on DVD and wouldn’t mind watching it over when it does come on television. It remains true to its original television expression yet is not slavish in just copying and pasting onto the big screen. It’s funny and it gets you involved in the twists and turns and as such is a good role model for other programmes that would wish to become film favourites. A film I’d have no reservations in recommending strongly whether you’ve seen the television programme or not.