CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (2014)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a rare breed much like it’s noble hero, Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans). It’s an intelligent, mature, action/thriller that is also a kick-ass popcorn movie and one that lives up to it’s hype and more. Cap’s latest solo adventure finds him still trying to adjust to modern life and more importantly to being a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. whose methods are getting less and less to his liking. Steve Rodgers is a man of old-fashion values and he is seeing echos of an enemy he has fought before in the intelligence organization’s practices. Especially it’s plan to launch three heavily armed heli-carriers into the air for constant surveillance and “threat removal”. Be wary he should, as more than one specter from his past are about to rear their heads, one deeply rooted in the organization he works for and the other close to his heart. When Cap, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) begin to suspect a serpent in the nest, a mysterious metal-armed assassin known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) marks them for death. But this may be one adversary Captain America may not be able to fight.
All I can say is that Marvel has delivered one hell of a solid movie. Certainly one of the best of the Marvel film series, so far. The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is smart, complex yet, incredibly easy to follow and is loaded with some really nice character touches, not only with our cast of familiar faces, including Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), but with new characters such as Sam ‘The Falcon’ Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a new hero, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) a high level S.H.I.E.L.D. head and the mysterious Winter Soldier, a deadly assassin not without his own secrets and complexities. The film is expertly directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, who boldly give this film a more moderate pace to give the story time to develop and our heroes time to unravel the twisted web they find surrounding them. I loved that the film simply told a good story and didn’t sacrifice that story or character development for action…not that there isn’t plenty of that, cause there is. The action is fast paced and spectacular when it does come, with good old-fashioned chase scenes, shoot-outs, hand to hand fights and a literal war above Washington D.C. that rivals the ending of The Avengers. The Russos never loose track of the multiple characters or scenarios during that action, especially at the climax where our heroes are spread quite thin in their attempts to thwart a plan that runs deep with treachery and betrayal. The film also has some really nice surprises and cameos, that help round out the story and take it to the next level, and is not without a sly, but unobtrusive sense of humor. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that had so much to offer yet, remained so entertaining. In terms of the Marvel series, this film is a grand slam among home runs. Maybe not as consistently fun as The Avengers, but it has a lot more substance and still provides the thrills and series references we come to expect. The slow moments have just as much to offer as the explosive ones, the way it should be.
And the cast are all guided well by the Russos and give their best portrayals yet in their perspective roles. Evans truly shines giving us a noble and headstrong hero who is learning to deal with the modern world and how things are done in his line of work, but without sacrificing who he is and what he stands for. Cap is Cap and he’s going to do things his way even if it means going it alone. Scarlett Johansson gives her best turn yet as Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff. Not sure who is to credit, be it the actress finally locking in on her character or the filmmakers for giving her the guidance and script material to do it. Her Widow is strong, tough, a bit aloof, but she has a dry sense of humor and her exposure to Rodger’s old school sense of honor brings a little of the woman out from underneath the cold spy. I like that the character finally had some development and Johansson portrayed it well. Jackson’s performance is what we’d expect from the veteran actor and his Fury finally also gets more to do then in the previous films and we get to see a little more of what makes him tick and I hope it continues. Mackie is a wonderful edition to the cast as a war veteran with special skills, who will valiantly join this new fight and he works very well with Evans and Johansson. They make a solid trio of heroes to root for against all odds. Sebastian Stan does a really good job with not only creating a formidable and dangerous adversary in his phantom-like Winter Soldier, but gives the character some nice depth and a touch of conflict that I won’t spoil for those not familiar with the comic character. Redford is an acting legend and is perfectly cast as Pierce, a man of character and secrets and it’s great to see him in a film like this. Rounding out is Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow, a strong secondary villain who is a thorn in Rodgers’ side, Cobie Smolders once again is fun as the tough Maria Hill and Emily VanCamp shows some moxie as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who takes a shine to Steve Rodgers and believes in him when doubt is cast by scheming villains. There are also a couple of nice touch cameos, too, that I won’t spoil here…and as usual, stay through the credits for not one but two post credits scenes.
An absolute blast of a movie that delivers the action, as well as, a smart story loaded with intrigue, suspense, surprises and some really strong character moments mixed in. Bravo Marvel, Bravo! I loved it!
Check out my look at the original Captain America: The First Avenger here!