Each and every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is not an ordinary superhero film, but a superhero film with a sub-genre. It’s the perfect formula to keep these films fresh and interesting. Iron Man fits the technological-genre of the film, while Thor gives the universe a more fantastical touch. Which leaves Captain America to be the more grounded of the three by using war and political themes, and with Captain America: The Winter Soldier those themes hit closer to home, especially with the ongoing current events with Russia, drones, and the NSA. But that is for another report on a completely different website.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has an absolutely fantastic and engaging story that couldn’t have come at a better time. There are characters wrapped up in a story full of mistrust, political conspiracy, drones, lies, and fear. Everything that happens in this film will set the stage for what happens in both Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hit the jump for the full review.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo had a huge task on their hands. Give the audience a truly engaging worthwhile story that doesn’t submit to the idea that a man who has been encased in ice since World War II is now living in an age of TMZ, Social Media, and Disney acquiring the rights to almost every entity known to man.
But Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely‘s script does away with all of that in almost an instant, and drives straight into a plot of conspiracy, invasion of privacy, heavy action, and a story that sets the course of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and beyond.
It has been two years since the events of New York, with Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) running covert operations with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) under Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) leadership. Things have changed, and nothing was what Rodgers remembered. “The price of freedom is high,” as Rodgers would explain, has Fury reveals three Helicarriers that are about to be launched in days. This sort of invasion of privacy shocks Rodgers to his core, but as he tries to gather his thoughts on this, something darker is on the horizon. This evil force goes as far back as WWII and has found its way into the American Government and S.H.E.I.L.D. itself.
It’s a bit of a complex story, and going into it would only spoil the film itself. But like any ordinary political thriller, there is no one you can really trust, not even the people you worked with for the past two years. While Rodgers tries to keep his sense of mortality intact, it is constantly tested and on the brink of destruction, as he is constantly lied to and the people he thought he could trust are keeping secrets from him. This idea of mistrust keeps the audience interested and engaged as they too try to figure out what exactly is going on.
While Evans, Johansson, and Jackson have been walking in these shoes for the better part of five years, newcomers Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, and Emily VanCamp are all welcomed additions to the MCU. Redford has been steadily avoiding these high-profile blockbuster roles for a long time. In fact you can say he has made a career out of it, but he fits in perfectly as the role of the mysterious Agent Alexander Pierce, who is more of a second-in-command director than he is an agent. Redford has this swagger and commanding presence even if he isn’t a part of the larger action sequences. As the man who organizes and approves S.H.I.E.L.D. missions, Pierces motives are unclear, even to those who work closest to him. Basically your typical S.H.I.E.L.D. runaround.
Mackie absolutely steals the show as a variation of Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. This character is not a pimp or drug pusher, instead he is a counselor for the VA, and one of the top paratroopers of his group. Of course if you have seen the trailers, you know that he is no ordinary paratrooper. These changes don’t hurt the character at all, in fact it is those moments you see him without the suit that you get to see a strong character who doesn’t need Iron Man suits, Mjoliner, or the Super Soldier Serum, you get to see a real hero. The script also doesn’t relegate him to being the funny supporting character (although he does provide the more humorous moments in the film) or look like he is fighting for screentime. This is the type of thing that makes a supporting character deserve his own film.
The same can be said for Johansson’s character. Black Widow starts to show some of those signature mistrust stripes that comic book readers are familiar with. But it’s all a part of that political thriller game. Not only does the lead hero not know who to trust, but the audience is given many reasons to has misgivings about the people they though they could trust. And while Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) has limited screen time, there is that sweet girl next door exterior she has that makes her very interesting, because when she pulls out that gun, that neighborly effect goes straight out the window. It makes me hope we see more of her in either the One-Shots or sequels.
While it isn’t easy to trust some of the characters on screen, the one who can easily be identified as the bad guy is the villain in the subtitle: The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). There isn’t anything to complex about the character considering he is a brainwashed assassin. Like Pierce, he also has a commanding presence with those cold dead winter eyes staring right at you as he is about to kill his next target. Unlike Pierce, he is more involved in the action, as he is the only one who is able to fight Captain America.
For the Russos to take on a film of this magnitude is incredibly daunting. Taking a look at all the logistics of creating the conspiracy theory in a political thriller and balancing it out with Cap’s struggles and intense action is no easy task. But Captain America: The Winter Soldier has some of the best action sequences I have ever seen. The incredibly breathtaking car chase alone is merely a piece of this fantastic superhero action puzzle. Even when these action sequences get toned down for a fist fight, it is something that you can almost feel with every punch thrown. But even some of the more quieter set pieces will make your jaw drop. What the Russos have created is a very visceral, almost very real world, one that relates to those ongoing events I talked about. And these brothers come from a comedic background working on sitcoms like Arrested Development and Community.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a rare breed of sequel, with it being a sequel to The Avengers and Captain America: The First Avenger. But try not to worry about the fact that if you missed one or both films, you won’t understand The Winter Soldier. There is a good enough story in this film where it really won’t matter. But if you have watched both – and chances you have – then Winter Soldier is one of the best middle chapter films. In fact, it is one of the best superhero films ever.