Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
TL;DR: See it. See it now.
It’s no secret that when it comes to comic-book movies, Marvel Studios are in a league of their own, following a carefully thought-out process and formula that many other studios have, and will, attempt to replicate even though they are likely to fail miserably. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is the newest addition to the Marvel catalogue and it’s upped the ante for comic-book movies – big time.
We meet Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) sometime after the events in New York, the timeline isn’t very clear – is this after The Avengers, but before Iron Man 3, before Thor: The Dark World? It’s likely, due to the ending of the film that it’s set after Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World. We don’t know, but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.
Steve Rogers has officially joined S.H.I.E.L.D., and is living in Washington D.C. It is in the first few moments of the film where you realise that this is a different Steve Rogers to what we have known before. Rogers is more confident in himself, now that he’s found a place in this new technology driven world. While he still has a lot of catching up to do (as evident by his notebook in the first scene), Rogers has managed to shake off a lot of the overbearing, straight-laced, square-jawed and somewhat boring persona that we saw in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers.
We’re also introduced to Sam Wilson, aka. Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie who delivers most of the witty, humorous quips of the film. His portrayal of the Falcon is another welcome addition to the Marvel fold, ad we could see him fitting in very nicely with the Black Widow / Hawkeye team, if that is the direction that Marvel want to take (which they should).
Story-wise, we’ll keep it short and hopefully not give away too many spoilers: Rogers and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are tasked to rescue the SH.I.E.L.D operatives whose ship has been taken by pirates. During this mission, Rogers finds Black Widow downloading S.H.I.E.L.D data onto an encrypted drive, which she later gives to Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), though he is unable to gain access to the protected information. While Fury goes to meet with Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), he is attacked and badly injured. It is in this impressive scene, that we first get our glimpse at The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
Fury manages to escape to Rogers’ apartment, where he discreetly tells him that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. Rogers, when summoned to meet senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), refuses to tell him Fury’s last words. Rogers is branded a fugitive, and this is where the fun really begins.
We’re met with the information that there have been Hydra operatives hiding inside S.H.I.E.L.D since it’s creation, and they have been responsible for the death of many (including Mr. & Mrs. Stark). Now, their plan is to kill potential threats, a mere 20 million, before they have the opportunity to threaten the world, using an algorithm conceived by Dr. Arnim Zola (Toby Jones). It is up to Rogers, Black Widow, Falcon and Maria Hill to stop this from happening.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a welcome addition to the Marvel catalogue, featuring less showy CGI than its predecessors and more focus on high-energy old-school action, suspense and character development. CA:TWS is more on-par with the extraordinary film that was Iron Man 3, rather than Thor: The Dark World which featured a mix of problems that were not limited to its poor story, script and the fact that their villain was continuously out-shined by Tom Hiddleston‘s portrayal of Loki.
The script, written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is excellent. The story is tight, witty and an overall major improvement on the first film, which was extremely over-the-top and cheesy for our liking.
There are very few, very brief mentions to other Avengers – a mention of Stark, Bruce Banner and a very brief glimpse of the Avengers Tower (formerly the Stark Tower in The Avengers).
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have excelled here, originally coming from a comedic background, they have proved themselves to be perfectly adept to the workings of blockbuster comic-book entertainment. The duo are really showcasing what Marvel Phase 2 is capable of.
The action sequences are slick, with hand-to-hand combat, expertly performed by Rogers, Black Widow and the supporting cast. If we were being picky, we might say that perhaps some of the fights are overly polished and choreographed. Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff continues to be able to hold her own, and after this film, we’re even more desperate for a standalone Black Widow story. Maria Hill is given the opportunity to show a little more of her character, who feels more natural in this film and less forced than she did in The Avengers. Actually, we’d love to see a Black Widow / Maria Hill film with a cameo from Hawkeye / Clint Barton.
Special credit needs to go to Henry Jackman, who crafted an amazing score for the film and which has already risen very close to the top of our list for favourite scores of all time. We’ve even embedded it from Spotify at the end of this review to try to entice you to listen!
The question remains, however, as to whether Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a truly apt title for the film, as the Winter Soldier / Bucky Barnes doesn’t have as large a role as the title suggests, perhaps featuring in only 3 or 4 major scenes. Sebastian Stan plays the role well, but ultimately isn’t actually given much to play with, having almost no dialogue and therefore needing to rely on his eyes and facial reactions to convey the nature of his character. For the most part, his does this well but his best scene is the last post-credits scene of which we won’t spoil for you, but there is some true contempt, anger and a whole spectrum of emotion in his eyes then. We’re excited to see how he will develop when he inevitably pops up in the Marvel Universe again.
Our first post-credits scene had us on the edge of our seats (yep, there’s two!). Joss Whedon directed this short segment, which introduced Baron Wolfgang von Strucker (Thomas Kretschmann), Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), plus a cameo from Loki’s spear. We won’t give it away, but pay close attention, this is your first look at The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the strongest film we’ve seen in Marvel Phase 2, and it’s not hard to know why.
CA: TWS is a fantastic piece of blockbuster cinema that is able to give credit to the comic-book origins and it’s Marvel counterparts, but it is also able to stand on its own as an enthralling piece of action cinema.
It is truly a thrilling, exciting, impressive and consistently entertaining movie that will keep you guessing and gasping throughout.