Starring: Chris Evans (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Scarlett Johansson (Her), Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), Sebastian Stan (Hot Tub Time Machine), Robert Redford (All Is Lost), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction)
Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo (You, Me & Dupree)
Writers: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Pain & Gain)
Runtime: 2 hours 16 minutes
Release Date: 26 March (UK), 4 April (US)
Much like Superman, the main problem people have with Captain America is that he’s too nice; too much of a boy scout who can do no wrong. When stood next to Iron Man or Hulk, he seems a little bland. But The Star-Spangled Man with a Plan did well to keep audiences entertained in both his solo debut The First Avenger and in The Avengers itself. Now Cap must hold the limelight again in The Winter Soldier, and I’m happy to say it’s certainly one you won’t want to miss.
The Winter Soldier is the first post-Avengers Marvel film that really feels like a true sequel to that film, but it does have a tone and feel all its own. Whilst First Avenger was a light-hearted Indiana Jones-esque romp, this film has the ouvre and style of a spy thriller; a Bourne film set in a world of superheroes. And just like all the great thrillers of the past, the film is packed with intrigue and suspense that keeps the pace rollicking and the audience engaged. It calls into question the workings of S.H.I.E.L.D., the difference between controlled peace and true freedom, and the consequences of both outlooks. It’s a story that feels very suited to Cap’s optimistic view, and seeing him put his foot down and fight against the modern view of “peace” is one that is both entertaining and somewhat relevant to the times we live in. For those really interested in the mythos of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is a must-see. While Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World worked as standalone fare, The Winter Soldier majorly shakes up the status quo and sets the universe in an interesting place for the future (do I even need to tell you to stay through the credits at this point?). My only real gripe with the film is that Winter Soldier himself isn’t as big a part of the film as you’d think. It’s not a huge loss, as the film’s main focus is more than enough to hold the story, but you’d think one of the titular characters of the movie would have a much bigger impact on the main story.
His third time holding the shield, Chris Evans truly owns the character of Captain America and it’s hard to even think he was once Johnny Storm. The story challenges Cap’s beliefs and morals, allowing Evans to do much more than just be the knight in shining armour. The film also allows plenty of time for Steve Rogers’ more personal life, particular highlights being the scene between him and an aged Peggy Carter and whenever he encounters the enigmatic Winter Soldier. Scarlett Johansson was perfect casting as Black Widow, and here she is finally given much more screen time to impress in both action scenes and character moments; her chemistry with Evans is superb and the true heart of the movie. Anthony Mackie is clearly having a ball playing The Falcon and too has great repartee with Cap, whilst Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is finally presented in a much more human and fallible manner that shows he does have a conscience. As said before, The Winter Soldier himself isn’t on screen as much as you’d expect, but when he’s there he is a very intimidating presence. Robert Redford is well suited to his role as Alexander Pierce in what is clearly a throwback to his role in the classic 70’s thrillers like Three Days of the Condor, and even Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and Maximiliano Hernandez’s Agent Sitwell get more time in the spotlight. And of course there are many cameos ranging from the obvious to the surprising, including teases hinting towards the future.
Considering The Russo Brothers’ background is in comedy, they really nail the action sequences in The Winter Solider. Clearly influenced by the likes of Bourne and The Raid, the fights are as visceral and intense as you can get within the PG-13 limitations. Ranging from tight one-on-one brawls to massively complicated choreographed fights on ground and in the air, all the action scenes impress and rival those in The Avengers on a spectacle level. The cinematography and editing never becomes problematic, and always knows when to cut in close and when to keep distance and let us enjoy the carnage. The score isn’t quite as memorable and heroic as Alan Silvestri’s score for the first movie, but Henry Jackman’s music does give the film a much more modern feel.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier stands as one of Marvel’s finest achievements. For those who wanted a true sequel to The Avengers, this is it. The plot is intriguing and shifts the foundations for the films to come, it moves the characters forward in an interesting direction, and as pure popcorn entertainment it is second to none. Anyone doubting that Captain America is too silly or jingoistic a character for the times we live in will probably be silenced when they see this picture, as it shows us that we’ll always need the pure hero who will always stand up for what is right. Now to wait till August, where an unlikely team of heroes will form to guard the krutacking galaxy.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10