Monday, 24 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Movie Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Movie Review

Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson, Anthony Mackie
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo

The first Captain America movie in 2011 was an impressive introduction to Steve Rogers and his patriotic derring-do, but left the nagging feeling that maybe the Captain was a little wet behind the ears and a weak link in the Avengers' admittedly strong chain.

Thankfully, this sequel blows that perception out of the water and hits yet another major home-run for the Marvel World.

Struggling to adjust back into modern life, Rogers soon finds his life thrown into turmoil when an assassination attempt on one of S.H.I.E.L.D's higher ups takes place. Thrown into the web of intrigue and in the midst of a deepening conspiracy, Rogers is forced to team up with Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow to get to the bottom of what exactly is going on.

However, the Captain's not sure who he can trust - and when an old enemy, The Winter Soldier, shows up, things get even more complicated.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a sequel that fires on all cylinders and offers up a blockbuster experience that's simultaneously old-fashioned yet also current. Meshing superheroics and action with a spy / conspiracy is a great mix for the film and the audience alike. Throwing in references to other Marvel events so casually means that the film-makers have ensured their loyal fans aren't ignored and the casual viewer isn't alienated (even if a knowledge of Captain America: The First Avenger proves to be a bonus point).

But it's not just a clandestine conspiracy and threats of a New World Order that propels this Marvel movie to greatness - it's the richness of the development of the hitherto slightly weaker Steve Rogers. Questions over transgressions from the past, whistle-blowing, the age old debate over civil liberties and the feeling of alienation in a modern day world all give Evans a chance to flesh out the character that needed a darker moral edge, while proffer him the opportunity to question his position in it all. It also helps sell the whole lack of trust angle that's so crucial to this film working - there are enemies within this time around. Evans also impresses in the action stakes with some serious kick-ass action sequences being pivoted by the man himself (and his shield frisbee).

While some of the twists can be seen coming a little way off and are slightly predictable, the action sequences  and occasional quips more than make up for it. High-intensity, adrenaline filled and yet carefully measured, the scenes work very well - and offer something new without resorting on CGI antics to have the desired effect. A beat-down in a lift, a completely original freeway chase and an opening sequence on board a boat that would make Captain Phillips blush, all combine to provide a real tonic to the genre, while grounding it in a kind of reality that's broadly appealing.

Of the supporting (and vulnerable) characters, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow gets a beefed up role as she's sent on a road trip with the Cap, and Robert Redford's veteran S.H.I.E.L.D bigwig Alexander Pierce keeps you guessing which side he's on. Samuel L Jackson provides the requisite level of cool as Nick Fury giving the character an arc that will no doubt have reverberations for the S.H.I.E.L.D universe as a whole. Marvel universe continuity gets a nod with the introduction of Agent 13 (aka Revenge star Emily Van Camp) and the Winter Soldier himself, who appears to channel the Terminator in terms of his relentless pursuit (no spoilers here, but the mythology follows the line - even if the eventual reveal of who the Soldier is can be seen a mile off thanks to some over laboured flashbacks). A great addition to the team is Anthony Mackie, whose Falcon gets the lion share of the best lines, but who proves to be a vital asset to the team.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a blockbuster of the highest order - accessible, wildly entertaining and truthful to its own canon, it's proof the Marvel juggernaut shows no sign of stopping.

Oh, and watch out for the subtle mention of Tim Tams.... and stick around for 2 post credits scenes.


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