Saturday 29 March 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

I review the latest outing from Marvel Studios to take place in the Post-Avengers Universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, starring Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan – Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo.

As a primarily DC fan, I have had to reluctantly admit that Marvel have had the better foothold when it comes to live action movies over the past few years mainly due to their superb Avengers Assemble movie that hit cinemas in 2012. Since then, we’ve seen two post-Avengers movies that were, whilst initially fun and entertaining, proved to be incredibly filled with plot holes that you could put a bus through and relatively weak (but still fun) instalments in the Marvel Universe. However, one movie that I was perhaps looking forward to the most in this post-Avengers Assemble Universe was The Winter Soldier, a Captain America title based on a critically acclaimed comic book series by Ed Brubaker.

And well, the end result was indeed incredibly awesome. The Winter Soldier serves not only as a far superior follow up to The First Avenger but quite possibly is the first Marvel movie that really can knock Avengers Assemble off its perch. It’s just that good – re-adding fresh life into a genre that was starting to look as though it had seen better days, and proving a great new launch pad for the rest of the Marvel franchise.

After the cataclysmic events in New York, The Winter Soldier now finds Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) adjusting to a new life in the twenty-first century – where he meets Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) on a run. It’s not long before he’s forced to leave Sam when Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) comes to collect him, and he’s dragged into a covert-ops mission to rescue hostages from a SHIELD ship captured by terrorists. It’s a great opening start and allows for several amusing scenes (there’s a notepad where Steve has a list of things to catch up on) that help inject this movie with the kind of humour that it needs to be recognisably part of the Marvel Universe, but unlike Thor: The Dark World, doesn’t detract it from the main narrative.

The movie is Marvel’s most political yet, with a lot of emphasis on espionage and shadow ops with the film taking place in modern day America – there’s a lot of violent action on show that one would expect from a superhero movie, with plenty of characters getting lots to do – moreso than previous outings. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury gets more to do then he has done in the past – with a near-vital role, and Scarlett Johansson delivers a very impressive performance as Black Widow who teams up with Captain America when things go south. As well as the old crowd though, the new additions – most notably Anthony Mackie as The Falcon (Sam Wilson), gets a lot to do and serves as a great new addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and has a lot of great screentime with Steve and Natasha.

The twist concerning The Winter Soldier’s identity will almost certainly have been known by comic book fans but just in case there aren’t any who haven’t heard it yet I recommend not searching it, because the reveal is pretty powerful and whilst it can – with knowledge of The First Avenger, easily be pieced together, is something that is pulled off very well and whilst the Winter Soldier himself plays a formidable presence, this movie feels like it’s more about the lead cast and it’s almost a certainty that when it does it the states, Sebastian Stan is not going to become Marvel’s next breakout hit like Tom Hiddlestone’s Loki was. However, how the Winter Soldier develops in future Captain America films will be great to see, and I for one am really looking forward to seeing where things go further down the line.

As much of Sebastian Stan’s The Winter Soldier that we get to see, we also get a lot of Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) scenes, who plays a top-level S.H.I.E.L.D Commander. His role in the film is very big indeed and it’s great to see Redford deliver his role very well – whilst we don’t get any Red Skull-esque bads, the film opts for a slightly more down to earth approach, or as down to Earth as you can be, with three Helicarriers being the set piece for the film’s grand finale.

The acting in The Winter Soldier is great. There is no weak performances and the cast all pull off an incredibly fun performance – with some awesome actions sequences that will no doubt keep you extremely entertained even the second or third time watching.

It’s fairly safe to say that The Winter Soldier is certainly going to be viewed as one of Marvel’s Top 3 movies but I think it deserves top spot. It’s better and more unpredictable than Avengers Assemble, and for once doesn’t put aliens in the spotlight allowing for the atmosphere to be a lot tenser than Avengers Assemble. There are also some great nods to the comics thrown in there – a certain Captain America bad guy pops up in a great way – and familiar faces crop up from The First Avenger. All in all though, The Winter Soldier was a great success, and I’m looking forward to Guardians of the Galaxy even more now.

VERDICT: 4.5/5

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