Captain America has long had the bad reputation of being Marvel’s most boring character. In much the same way that people react to Superman with cynicism, he’s perceived as too much of a boy scout, too virtuous, too ‘heroic’ for the modern world. However, if the Winter Soldier is to have any impact (which it certainly will, being the year’s first genuine blockbuster), it will be to dispel this notion. Joe and Anthony Russo have crafted an exciting, timely and exceptionally fun superhero film, challenging the likes of Dark Knight and Avengers to the title of ‘best comic-book movie’. Not only does it excel on its own merits, being consistently entertaining and well-crafted, it also has a great place in the wider Marvel Universe, setting up events that are sure to affect Avengers 2 and the films beyond it.
Like Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 before it, Winter Soldier explores how its hero (Chris Evans) is dealing with the after effects of the events in New York. Generally, this seems to be through running around DC and taking missions for Nick Fury’s (Samuel L Jackson) SHIELD. This balance is then thrown into disarray by both Cap’s discovery that SHIELD may not be acting in the world’s best interest (an unsubtle, but welcome, nod to the controversies currently surrounding the US government) as well as the emergence of a new cyber-armed foe, the eponymous Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Whilst that latter plot may be nothing new, it is executed very well and the more subversive main plot is an unexpected but interesting one, given that this is a tentpole superhero movie about the embodiment of patriotism.
To really go in-depth on these plots would require too many spoilers, but suffice to say they easily hold interest for the entirety of films admittedly lengthy run time. A major reason for this is that all the action scenes are fantastic, directed incredibly well by the Russo brothers, despite the fact that the vast majority of their previous experience has been on TV sitcoms. They handle the fights, be they hand-to-hand, gun battles or aerial dogfights with a surprising amount of panache, and there is a genuine feeling of weight and power behind every hit landed.
As is now par for the course on a Marvel Studios movie, Captain America 2 never forgets that it is very silly, and thus remains a whole lot of fun throughout, inspiring a constant grin through the majority of scenes. Whilst this does mean some of the more heftily dramatic moments don’t land like they could, this is in the end a very good thing, as gritty done wrong can lead to a dull film that takes itself way too seriously, a la Man of Steel. Particular action highlights include a surprisingly visceral attack on a boat hijacked by pirates and anything involving the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and his high-tech wingsuit.
Honestly, it’s very hard to properly review the film and why I liked it so much without delving into spoiler territory, as the plot developments and links to the wider Marvel world are definitely a huge part of the appeal, creating a special kind of excitement within what is already a fantastically entertaining superhero film. A great script, with great directors and a solid cast, with gravitas brought in by the likes of Robert Redford, further adding to the spy thriller feel. If there’s one area in which Marvel succeeds incredibly well, it is in making all of its films feel distinct, and that proud tradition is carried superbly on through Captain America The Winter Soldier.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring; Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie
Run Time: 136 mins