Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sabastian Stan, Anthony Machie, Cobie Smulders
This film introduces new directors Anthony and Joe Russo directing a script written by Christopher Markus who also wrote Thor: The Dark World, Pain and Gain, and Captain America: The First Avenger. This team introduced a new genre of film to the Marvel Universe: the espionage story. This movie is action plus for sure, but it’s also full of character, spies, and backstabbing. The decision to move into this genre was the first step to crafting a great Captain America film because this where he needs to be. Captain America is all about the red, white, and blue and when he’s forced to question the country he loves he’s at his best. This particular hero is one that can come off campy and annoying or formulaic. Done right though, with character first, Steve Rogers could be a fascinating character. He’s obviously a fish out of water, a man of the 40’s, a man of a simpler time when good was good and bad was bad or so he believed. The great thing about this film is that it demonstrates a young Steve Rogers’ biggest weakness; his naiveté. In current time Rogers has matured but he’s still behind the times and constantly trying to play catchup and possibly the biggest lesson he learns in this film is that there was never a simpler time. Everything has always been complicated; we just know more about what’s happening behind the curtain these days than our predecessors knew.
The one thing Rogers aka Captain America in all of his confusion can always count on his country, even if there are gray areas the United States is always out to do the right thing. This film follows Rogers’ discovery that all isn’t as it seems and his country may not be trying to do the right thing at all. At the same time a violent powerful new enemy has appeared that seems to be able to match, and even possibly outmatch Captain America blow for blow. As the story unfolds Rogers can trust no one, or almost no one and he must weed out his true enemies with only the help of the Black Widow and a random running buddy who turns out to have been a part of a military program codenamed Falcon. The trailers make the story feel epic and huge and there are those moments but at the heart of this film there’s a hero on the run trying to survive and battle an enemy he doesn’t know.
The Winter Soldier is the first truly scary character in the Marvel Universe. Loki is definitely charismatic and entertaining and he does get some scary moments but the winter Soldier is almost like a Michael Myers of super villains. He has a goal and he doesn’t stop until he reaches that goal no matter who dies in his wake. The fight scenes between Cap and the soldier are some of the most intense of all of the super hero films. The action in general harkens back to a time before the majority of a film’s runtime was riddled in CGI. A lot of what we get here is well choreographed fights with a little wire work thrown in to spice it up, like the good ol’ days. Don’t get me wrong there’s high flying action and good cgi work here but the biggest and best scenes are simply fisticuffs.
This film also continues to build a really tight world for all of the Marvel characters to exist in. In other films you misght consider some little bits in this film to be easter eggs but the truth is these set pieces, random lines of dialogue, and characters aren’t winks at fans, they are part of this world and they belong there. If you go to your mother’s house for example would you be surprised to see family pictures on the wall? No, those pictures should simply be on that wall (unless she hates you all which is a whole other thing). There are character moments that tie to all of the other films, all the way back to Iron Man 1 here and some of the one shots in this film as well as hints at the future.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier does nearly everything perfectly. The action first and foremost is kinetic and intense, the espionage is actually meaty and well executed, and the movie has heart without being sappy. The movie is a little long but there’s just so much story from beginning to end. Scarlett Johansson gets to build a range of emotions for Black Widow even greater than she did in The Avengers. She’s cute, funny, aggressive, and stern. Anthony Machie is new to the Marvel U and he turns a small role into an extremely memorable by channeling the not irritating parts of a Will Smith like character. He’s sure to have a bigger role in the next Cap movie and maybe even other Marvel adventures. Every other familiar face is welcome and most of them get at least a little great screen time. Sam Jackson is at his best as Nick Fury here. Now don’t take this wrong, this isn’t The Chinese Connection or Three Days of the Condor, it’s more like a good 80’s James Bond sort of espionage. It would kind of have to be that sort of political thriller considering we are dealing with super heroes here. The bar has been raised in the Marvel Universe in nearly every way with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and hopefully there’s no turning back. If this film is what we are to expect from this phase of Marvel films then we are in for good times.