Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a very good film. It’s got some fantastic action set-pieces, a good villain, and also benefits from a storyline that adds an edge and relevance lacking from the first movie. Yet, it’s still not quite as good as the first movie. That was just rollicking good entertainment from start to finish, whereas this film repeats itself a bit too often and throws in a couple of surprises that are completely unsurprising (hey, I’ve not read any of the comments and I could see where the movie was heading within the first half hour).
The plot for this adventure sees Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) starting to worry about the nature of his work. He’s not too pleased with being called in whenever SHIELD needs another mess cleaned up, and he suspects that things are heading down a dark, slippery slope. Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) also suspects that things are getting turned a bit upside-down in the new world order being built up. Even Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) isn’t too happy, and he’s normally the man leading from the front and doing whatever needs done. When things, inevitably, start to fall down around his ears, Rogers realises that he can’t trust anyone. He must find out exactly what SHIELD, now under the supervision of Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), has planned, and he must put a stop to it, if he thinks that they are going too far in their quest to deliver people into a false sense of freedom.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo do very good work here, with some cracking action set-pieces that blend CGI and practical effects into a winning combination. The one-on-one fights really do pack a punch, the Captain often jumps and spins around like a whirling dervish without ever seeming like nothing more than a videogame graphic, and the bigger moments take over the screen while never losing sight of the characters amidst the huge pieces of debris flying all over the place.
I can’t complain too much about the script either. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have picked a great way to develop the situation that caused so much friction in The Avengers and tie everything to the history of the main character (with a number of flashbacks reminding viewers of just what he’s lost in his lifetime). It’s just a shame that they hammer home the central message – about perceived freedom, and what cost it can come at – too often, and in a manner that’s often a bit too heavy-handed.
All of the returning players do great work, with Evans, Johansson and Jackson all being very comfortable in their roles by this point. Cobie Smulders also does well, even if she’s not given that much screentime. The newcomers to the franchise, however, show that they’re not going to be overshadowed by the star players. Redford is the most seasoned pro stepping into a new role, but he does so with effortless ease, bringing along some cinematic baggage that makes his casting a masterstroke. Anthony Mackie is very likable, and gets a fun introduction early on in the movie, while Frank Grillo and Emily VanCamp add plenty to the proceedings, with the former particularly entertaining as man of action Brock Rumlow.
Despite it being a bit too long, a bit too repetitive, and a bit too predictable, it’s hard to rate this as anything less than great. The many moments that work, they tend to work REALLY well. While it’s not quite as good as the first movie, it’s close enough. The Captain is two for two, and has even edged out Iron Man as my favourite superhero from the recent cinematic selection.
DIRECTOR: ANTHONY RUSSO, JOE RUSSO
WRITER: CHRISTOPHER MARKUS, STEPHEN MCFEELY
STARS: CHRIS EVANS, SCARLETT JOHANSSON, SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ROBERT REDFORD, ANTHONY MACKIE, COBIE SMULDERS, FRANK GRILLO, EMILY VANCAMP, HAYLEY ATWELL, SEBASTIAN STAN
RUNTIME: 136 MINS APPROX