Captain America:Winter Soldier – film review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the ninth instalment in this current arc of Marvel movies and the franchise is showing no signs of slowing down. This movie claims to pick up where the 1st Captain America left off, and while it does deal with Steve Rogers’ ability to come to terms with his time displacement we know that at least 2 years have gone by. Rogers (Chris Evans) has made a place for himself at SHIELD and the movie opens with him and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on a mission with a SHIELD STRIKE team You get the impression that these guys have worked together a few times. And with that we are straight into the action and what a fantastic bit of action it is.

Once the mission is done we get to explore a little bit of the loneliness in Roger’s life and so much is set up and explored here. The working relationship between Rogers and Romanov (Black Widow), his friendship with Sam Wilson, codenamed the Falcon, his possible romance with a neighbour and the influence that the World Security Council has on SHIELD and it’s upcoming plans to deal preemptively with terrorist threats. The latter is something that Cap and Fury do not see eye to eye on.

And then the big whammy. Not all is as it seems at SHIELD and trust is in short supply. An attack on Fury sends events into freefall. Cap is being stalked by a Russian legend, an assassin know only as The Winter Soldier whose strength and abilities are on a par with his own. The identity of this assassin is no surprise to anyone who is a reader of the comics. Now the action really begins. Evans has apparently been training in parkour, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, karate, boxing and gymnastics, and my word does it show. Directors, the Russo brothers, surmise that Cap’s fighting skills would have been brought up to date as part of his rehabilitation/training and Evans uses them to great effect. I was a bit taken aback to be honest. I was never the greatest Marvel reader and so my knowledge of Cap isn’t voluminous but I think of him in much the same way that I think of Superman. He’s a straight arrow with a strong moral core. With this in mind I found his savagery in battle a little surprising. It didn’t get in the way of the movie but did take me out of it for a little while as I recalibrated my perception of the hero. In fact I spent a good portion of the first 10m of this movie wincing quite a lot.

Johansen’s Black Widow, with her somewhat fluid moral perspective was a great counter to Roger’s idealism and the two of them made a wonderful if not contrasting team. The impromptu addition of Anthony Mackie’s ex paratrooper turned superhero rounded the team out nicely. The banter and one-liners that they all brought to play were brilliant, funny and understated which was a credit to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s script.

It was good to see the first black superhero get some screen time and although I suppose he was a sidekick, he definitely held his own on screen. His Falcon costume was much more militarized than the comic book version and that definitely fit with the tone of the movie and the explanation for the existence of the suit.

The relationship between Captain America and The Winter Soldier is a good one but its evolution felt just a touch stilted to me. There was just a little ‘something’ it needed to truly jolt an emotional response.

I also think that this maybe one of my favourite Samuel L Jackson outings of recent history mostly because I’m just not used to seeing him on the back foot and despite being his usual kickass self he was definitely up the creek without a paddle in this film.

The film was littered with great actors; Emily Vancamp of revenge fame has a small but quality part, Jim from Neighbours (if you know, you know) and especially Jenny Agutter were great as members of the World Security Council. Cobie Smulders is back as Maria Hill and there is a great cameo from a beloved geek comedy show. Lets not forget Stan Lee’s expected cameo and apparently there was one by Ed Brubaker the writer who originally penned the Winter Soldier storyline for the comics.

In terms of acting legends it was nice to see Robert Redford in a prominent role, especially as producer Kevin Feige claims that they took some inspiration for this movie from the political thriller Three days of the Condor which starred the self same Redford. Feige goes on to spell out the difference between the two Captain America films. The first was ‘a ’40s World War II movie masquerading as a big superhero movie’ while this one masquerades as a ‘political thriller’.

Directors, the Russo brothers (who were apparently approached because the producers admired their genre parody on an episode of Community) deliver a very different but thematically similar film, which in essence is what a superhero film such as this needs to keep it fresh.

It’s fairly obvious that I loved this movie and it’s worth mentioning that there were four incidents of spontaneous applause from the audience. The ramifications on the onscreen Marvel Universe of this story was a twist I didn’t see coming. It also goes without saying there are two post credit scenes – stay for them. You won’t regret it.

With a rich comic heritage there are doubtless loads of easter eggs that I missed but there is one very cool Sam Jackson moment that will have you nodding your head vigorously if you ‘get it’.
I do have one cautionary word though and it is this. 3D did this film no favours. While some films benefit from 3D there was nothing in here to warrant that treatment and worse the action scenes were of such ferocity and speed that the time needed by the brain to appreciate it was ruined by the extra processing that the glasses require.

Despite this I left the cinema more than thrilled. I’m going to see it again tomorrow and perhaps on second viewing some of it’s flaws will be more apparent, but I’ll end with the tweet I sent when I left the cinema last week – “Ok! That was awesome. Marvel do it again.”

Reporter: David Monteith

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