Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
IF THE first Captain America entry is generally considered to be one of the weaker entries in the Marvel body of work, then its sequel The Winter Soldier could well be one of the best.
Co-directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, this unfolds in the present day, adopts a thriller-style approach that combines elements of the ’70s with more modern Bourne-style grit, and has plenty to say about real-world concerns.
The only real reservations stem from the superhero backdrop, which renders the third act slightly more generic and conformist and which sometimes sits uncomfortably alongside those real world concerns, especially when placed against the context of the post-Avengers world.
Nevertheless, this is a great blockbuster and one that delivers on many fronts.
The story finds Steve Rogers – aka Captain America (and again played by Chris Evans) – struggling to embrace his role in the modern world as a new terrorist threat emerges in the form of a mysterious assassin known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
In pursuing this new foe, however, Rogers comes to question the role of SHIELD in policing the world and regularly clashes with his boss Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and his superior Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), while beginning to suspect that the threat could also be coming from within his own organisation.
Helping him to uncover the possible conspiracy are Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and sympathetic veteran Sam Wilson (aka, The Falcon and played by Anthony Mackie).
One of the most instantly striking things about The Winter Soldier is just how good the action sequences are – and there’s plenty of them. The Russos clearly have a penchant for keeping things grounded in the real and allow many of the stunts to unfold in old fashioned, crash, bang, wallop fashion (thereby keeping the effects to a minimum) with editing that clearly has been inspired by Bourne.
This lends the film a real world quality that was missing in the disappointing Thor: The Dark World and plays better to the directors’ attempts to give the film its gritty ’70s feel (a part of which also includes the casting of Redford, whose Three Days of the Condor and All The Presidents Men remain genre benchmarks).
The story, too, allows room to explore issues of police states and the repercussions of the war on terror and feels more involving than the alien-invasion premise of Thor and even Avengers. It also gives his strong cast plenty to play with in between the bouts of action.
Redford is a welcome – if surprising – addition to the Marvel universe and enjoys some nice scenes with Jackson, who himself enjoys a beefed up and more complex role as Fury; Evans is much more interesting (and conflicted) as Rogers, juggling his own demons and disillusionments with his old-school loyalties; Johansson is kick-ass and suitably enigmatic as Black Widow, and there’s excellent support from Stan as The Winter Soldier, Mackie as The Falcon and Frank Grillo as Crossbones.
Of the remaining criticisms, they’re of the churlish variety. The Winter Soldier is excellent while on-screen but could have used more of a Joker-style presence, the inevitable big showdown climax underwhelms just as so many superhero smack-downs now do (and needed a surprise element), and given the infrastructure of the Marvel universe, you might find yourself wondering why a quick call to Iron Man or The Hulk isn’t made to help out the heroes when they really have their backs against the wall (another point that adds to the unevenness of the real versus the fantasy).
But put those to one side and you’re left with a cracking sequel that really does deliver on a lot of fronts: it’s spectacular, it’s exciting, it’s not afraid to throw the odd curveball en route to that generic finale and it has the brains to match its wit and brawn.
The Winter Soldier is a very welcome addition to the Marvel universe.
Running time: 136mins
UK Release Date: March 26, 2014