Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier / Cert: 12A / Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo / Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely / Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford
Marvel Studios and Disney have offered up some fantastic films over the last few years, meaning that the pressure was firmly on the sequel to Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger. With long-time comic book fans the Russo brothers taking directing duties, expectancy was high. Added to expectancy was the inclusion of the Winter Soldier (Stan), arguably the coolest and most badass of Cap’s rogues’ gallery.
As we pick things up in the aftermath of The Avengers, we find Steve Rogers (Evans) trying to adjust to the modern world and essentially catch up on 70 years worth of history. With Cap now working for S.H.I.E.L.D., headed up by Alexander Pierce (Redford), it doesn’t take long for the Sentinel of Liberty to not be completely comfortable with the methods and ideology that S.H.I.E.L.D. is looking to implement. After a mysterious assassin, dubbed the Winter Soldier, attacks Nick Fury (Jackson), Cap is questioned by Pierce and essentially made public enemy #1. On the run from the very organisation that he has been working for, Rogers is assisted by Black Widow (Johansson), Fury and newcomer Sam Wilson (Mackie) in his quest to reveal the truth about the seemingly corrupted and compromised S.H.I.E.L.D. Wilson, of course, is best known to comic book fans as the Falcon, an identity he similarly takes on here.
With Cap, Fury, Widow and Falcon on the right side of the fence, opposing them is the seemingly-unstoppable Winter Soldier. A relentless metal-armed assassin that makes the Terminator look like a slouch, it’s clear from his early introduction that the Winter Soldier is playing for keeps. And just to add to the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the character, it seems that he has a deeply unsettling and troubled link to Cap’s past. Surely it can’t be, can it? For fear of spoilers for anybody not familiar with the character, let’s just leave that there.
As well as the question as to who is pulling the strings of the Winter Soldier, fans are also treated to long-time Cap villain-of-the-week Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) appearing as an initial threat for Rogers to take down. And if Winter Soldier and Batroc aren’t enough for you (surely Winter Soldier on his own is badass enough?!), there’s also the return of a familiar face and teases of plenty more to come, both on the hero and villain front, in the greater Marvel universe that Joss Whedon et al have created. And that’s before we even get to the two post-credits scenes.
Playing firmly on the political and spy elements that come hand-in-hand with S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivers a Marvel Studios movie like no other. Pulling from the likes of Bourne and Bond, this movie is almost has a serious, darker, corrupt edge to it, although there are moments of humour, mainly from Mackie’s Wilson. It’s also safe to say that this is a movie that simply doesn’t stop for breath. Opening with an attack on Batroc and his groups of mercenary pirates, the film’s bursts along at an electric, frenetic pace until its climatic battle and aftermath. There literally is no downtime for Cap and crew, and the movie absolutely flies by, seeming to last only 20 minutes rather than it’s 2 hours+ duration.
As stylish as it is exhilarating, Captain America: The Winter Soldier matches, if not betters, all of its Marvel predecessors. In interviews, the Russo brothers suggested that the movie sees a massive switch in the tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it most definitely does. And there may, just may, be the first seeds sown in a possible Civil War-esque arc in the future. We can only hope, although that throws up various questions as to how that could work. That’s all ifs and buts for now, though.
The Winter Soldier is Marvel at its best; fun, exciting, humorous, meaningful and with consequence. Chris Evans feels extremely comfortable in his Captain America skin, Mackie adds charisma and charm with his Sam Wilson, and even Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow gets the chance at some well-deserved development, adding some new layers to a character that so contrasts so much of what Steve Rogers and Captain America stand for. Plus, the Winter Soldier is tone perfect throughout, with the Russos not overexposing the character, using him effectively and efficiently. It’s also worth noting, an early scene with Cap visiting an old friend is absolutely heartbreaking and firmly catches you off-guard.
Simply put, Captain America: The Winter Soldier: go and see it! Go and see it now!