Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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PLOT: After helping to save the world in THE AVENGERS, Steve Rogers has settled into a life working for S.H.I.E.L.D. Yet after a dangerous mission and one of his allies is hurt, he soon faces the realization that there are deeper and darker forces that look to change the world as we know it. As well he faces a familiar name from his past that may lead to his own destruction.
REVIEW: There has been a lot of hype behind the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. With a solid trailer and that exciting extended preview that took place in an elevator with Cap vs. Frank Grillo and a team of tough guys, I had high hopes for the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The question is did the sneak peek represent the movie as a whole? And the answer is, yes, very well in fact. This excellent sequel is even better than I had expected thanks to Anthony and Joe Russo giving the film an impressive human element, while still being able to sell the massive action set pieces. THE WINTER SOLDIER may not be at quite the level of THE AVENGERS, but it comes very close.
When we meet up with Steve Rogers, he is adjusting to life after the cataclysmic events in THE AVENGERS. In the opening scene of THE WINTER SOLDIER our hero is first introduced to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who is no match when it comes to Rogers during a morning run. From the first few moments it is clear the script will give a lot of focus to character as much as action. Some of the most charming bits involve Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) trying to set Cap up on a date, but not to worry, the excitment picks up quickly when Rogers and Romanoff are sent along with a strike team to rescue hostages on a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship under attack. After this intense sequence, Rogers soon discovers that he must be weary of whom he trusts.
To delve too deeply into the villains and the story would be a disservice to anyone looking to go into this story fresh. While THE FIRST AVENGER played with that pulpy sort of adventure, the latest film is played feverishly well as an espionage thriller that harkens back to the Seventies. It even stars the great Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, one of the top brass of S.H.I.E.L.D. who was a staple in such political thrillers as THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN. By taking this approach in a modern world there is an interesting dynamic for Rogers. When he is assigned to a case he often finds the means to an end are frustratingly against his own moral code.
The idea of handing over the directing reins to Anthony and Joe Russo seemed like a risky one. Sure they have had major success with “Arrested Development” and “Community” but neither of those seem like preparation for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, much like Joss Whedon, they bring a sense of energy and fun to the characters involved. The two also manage to create an impressive look for the film with full realization of the importance of its visual scope as well – although the screening I went to wasn’t in 3D so I can’t comment on that aspect.
As far as the main players involved, you could almost consider this as Black Widow’s story in addition to Captain America's. Ms. Johansson has a major role in the film and it is nice to see her utilized as well as she is. It is especially great to see her and Chris Evans work this well together as they have developed an incredible chemistry, one that is extremely prevalent here. As for Evans, the actor has ingratiated himself into Rogers perfectly. Whether he is in superhero mode or simply a man not sure of his purpose, he makes for a compelling screen icon.
This feature of course sees the return of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury – who plays a very important role in the proceedings - as well as Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill. We also see a very unique return for actors from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER including Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Toby Jones as Dr. Arnim Zola and, of course, Sebastian Stan who makes for a striking WINTER SOLDIER. New and equally strong cast members include the previously mentioned Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/The Falcon who is going to earn a lot of cred from his terrific work here.
Without revealing too much, the villains in WINTER SOLDIER are unusually well drawn for a Marvel flick. Aside from possibly Tom Hiddleston as THOR’s brother, Loki, the big bads are generally not utilized well in these films. That is not the case here, especially during the third act when the big reveals come into play. And let this be said, the reveals are huge, and will drastically change the way we see this cinematic (as well as the television series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) world progress. I know they must have planned this out, but damn did it get me curious to see what the hell is going to happen in the future for Cap and friends.
To be frank, I was introduced into the Marvel world through its feature films. I was never really a comic connoisseur. However during the past few years I have found them to be an interesting world to explore. When it comes to Marvel Studios, I tend to enjoy nearly all of their films, even ones that don’t necessarily live up to the old-school fans expectations. Yet, with its story based on Ed Brubaker's “The Winter Soldier” storyline, I have a feeling that many of those fans who were turned off by the twist in IRON MAN 3 will have greater pleasure from CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. This is a solid piece of filmmaking that may manage to satisfy fans of the original story as well as general audiences looking for a smart and satisfying comic book movie.
Between this and THE AVENGERS, I am still leaning towards the Whedon directed feature as my personal favorite – of course that could change with time. WINTER SOLDIER did at times feel a bit long and the score by Henry Jackman was a bit uninspired, never lifting me further into the film. Still, CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER is an impressive film and one of the best that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer. Most importantly it has me completely invested in where these characters will go next. Be prepared for a game changer!
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|Extra Tidbit:||At this point is it even necessary to recommend you stay for the end credits?|