The A-Team (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 119/134 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: December 14, 2010
Review Date: December 13, 2010
After the surprise success of the film version of Mission: Impossible, producers began scouring the vaults for old action television shows which could be adapted for the big screen. Though there was an occasional success here and there (Charlie’s Angels), most of the attempts were unquestionably unsatisfying (Miami Vice, S.W.A.T., Starsky & Hutch, I Spy, The Mod Squad) which didn’t lead to any follow-up films. Joe Carnahan’s The A-Team is the latest to attempt to resuscitate an old action show, and it, too, has arrived with somewhat tepid results. There is a clever line at odd moments, and some of the action stuff, as big and dumb as it often is, can be involving, but the writers’ attempts to shock and surprise us fail again and again. The Sting this is not, and some of Carnahan’s shorthand style of storytelling suggests that maybe the movie’s plot wasn’t all that well thought out to begin with.
General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) asks his crack special ops squad to track down some counterfeit $100 engraving plates which had been used to print over $1 billion of fake currency during the Iraq war. On the move are team leader Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson), right hand man "Face" Peck (Bradley Cooper), team muscle B.A. Baracus (Quinton "Rampage" Jackson), and nutty pilot “Mad” Murdock (Sharlto Copley). They must work fast because the plates are also being eyed by two other parties out for their own ends: CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson) and black ops mercenary Pike (Brian Bloom), a former friend of Hannibal’s.
Director Carnahan has collaborated on the script with co-star Brian Bloom and Skip Woods, and they’ve shorthanded the team’s initial formation in the pre-credit and credit sequence which occupies almost a good twenty minutes of the movie. Then, they shorthand the team’s initial mission to recover the plates, showing us in bits and pieces key moments in the operation as they describe it using plastic models in real-time. Could it be that the operation was too nondescript to bother filming in more complete terms? Of course, this is only the beginning of the nonsensical action scenes which follow, each louder and more ludicrous than the next as the team is arrested in disgrace, split up and sent to four different prison facilities, and then must be sprung to continue the operation and to clear their names, all the while dealing with betrayals and revelations which anyone who’s seen even one or two of these espionage capers can see coming long before the surprises are sprung. The action pings all over the globe from Mexico to Germany and back to Los Angeles (though all of the filming was done in Vancouver), but there is never much of a sense of international intrigue. The stunts are big, the explosions are loud, and the characters are familiar to viewers of the original television show (down to B.A.’s fear of flying with Murdock) and even for those new to the character arcs, very simple to pigeon-hole easily. For an easily swallowed and easily digestible popcorn flick, it’s mildly acceptable, but clever writing and more attention to deepening the characterizations already created from four years of prime time television might have made The A-Team into something more than an easily disposable action yarn.
Liam Neeson is on cruise control as Hannibal Smith, crafty mastermind of the ops for the team. Bradley Cooper continues the ladies’ man persona we’ve seen from him in a handful of movies recently. MMA warrior Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has some major boots to fill replacing Mr. T, arguably the television show’s most iconic character, as B.A., and the fighter struggles somewhat in his first major role, handling the action acceptably but guilty of mumbling his lines and playing to other actors’ third shirt buttons on other occasions. Sharlto Copley walks away with the movie as the lovable lunatic Murdock changing accents in a flash and focusing on his objectives only when absolutely necessary. It’s a pleasure watching such an accomplished actor work a character so rich in ticks and tricks. Jessica Biel as Captain Charissa Sosa (Face’s ex-lover), now bent on bringing down the team and regaining the plates against all of the others jockeying for their possession, alternates between irritating and intrusive. As the only major female presence in the movie, of course, she steals focus on more than one occasion. Gerald McRaney, Patrick Wilson, and Brian Bloom do their parts to obfuscate the obvious though with only limited success.
The film is framed at 2.35:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Contrast runs fairly hot on this title, but it’s consistently applied leading to brownish skin tones but nicely saturated color. Details in faces and textures of clothing are easily discernible. Black levels aren’t always their deepest, and details in the shadows are sometimes crushed. A couple of scenes featured in low light levels appear more digital in appearance. The extended version of the film used for the purposes of this review has been divided into 20 chapters. The theatrical cut also has 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is quite active in terms of ambient sounds placed around the room and with some neat panning across and through the soundfield. Occasionally, though, there seems to be a certain lack of impact in some of the larger and more violent action scenes. Dialogue appears for the most part in the center channel though there are a few instances of directionalized dialogue being moved to alternate channels. Alan Silvestri’s noisy score likewise gets spread across the entire soundstage.
The viewer is offered the option of watching the 119-minute theatrical cut or the 134-minute extended edition.
“The Devil Is in the Details” (available only with the theatrical version of the movie) is a combination of audio commentary with director Joe Carnahan and with an interactive overlay (in the letterbox bar areas) showing the weaponry and plan sequences for the various operations during the movie.
All of the disc’s featurettes are presented in 1080p.
There are six deleted scenes which can be viewed separately or in one 9-minute grouping.
The film’s gag reel runs for 7 ¼ minutes.
“A-Team Theme Mash Up” is a 1 ½-minute montage of memorable moments from the movie set to the show’s theme music.
“Plan of Attack” takes 28 ¾ minutes with director Joe Carnahan, the principal actors, and the movie’s weapons coordinator discussing the making of the film with many behind-the-scenes shots of the movie’s production.
Each of the five major players in the movie get a featurette devoted to him or her with interviews with the subjects in question, other cast members, and the production team. Liam Neeson’s is 3 ¼ minutes; Bradley Cooper’s is 4 minutes; Rampage Jackson’s is 4 ½ minutes; Sharlto Copley’s is 5 minutes, and Jessica Biel’s is 6 ¼ minutes.
A featurette on the visual effects is hosted by visual effects supervisor James Price: it’s a 6 ¼ minute montage of before-and-after shots showing raw footage and how it was adapted for the film via CGI.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
The disc offers BD-Live features. In addition to BD-LiveLookup, there is one additional featurette only available on-line: “Dressing Down,” a 3 ¼-minute interview with the film’s costume designer Betsy Heimann as she describes her choices for various characters in the film. The actors also talk about what they wear in this 720p featurette.
The disc offers promo trailers for the FX drama series, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Wild Target.
The second disc in the set is the digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installation on Mac and PC devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
The A-Team is an easy-to-take and easy-to-forget action picture, based pretty faithfully on the NBC television series of the same name. Excellent picture and sound and more than adequate bonus features make a Blu-ray package fans will be happy to embrace.