Movie Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Last night I went to see a midnight showing of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, preceded by Captain America:The First Avenger. Chris Evans returns as the star-spangled man in this sequel, which sees him trying to adjust to the new world and try and work his way through the shades of grey that are present. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson reprise their roles as Nick Fury and Black Widow respectively, while Robert Redford plays Alex Pierce and Anthony Mackie is Sam Wilson a.k.a Falcon. There are some other people that pop up but I want this to be as spoiler-free as possible, so I thought I’d list the main players and then the other people might be a nice surprise.

After I watched Captain America: The First Avenger I was even more psyched for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. It had more of an edge to it than the first one, but it still retained a lot of heart. Steve Rogers is working for S.H.I.E.L.D but he’s becoming jaded as he thinks that they’re compromising freedom, and he wonders whether he and his ideals have a place in the new century. Then a new foe emerges – The Winter Soldier, and as Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon get deeper into the mystery who this man is they realize that more than their lives are at stake.

I really loved the political intrigue aspect presented here. It gives a huge insight into the inner workings of S.H.I.E.L.D, who have been an overarching presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man. I like how their attitude contrasted with Cap’s idealism and what the film did brilliantly was manage this conflict of concepts on the grand scale by exploring matters of surveillance etc, but it was also able to focus on the more intimate and personal core of the film, which was Cap’s battle with The Winter Soldier. The balance between big action set-pieces and character development was handled well so the film satisfies on more than one level.

I thought the story was engrossing and it moved along at a brisk pace. There were a few twists that aren’t particularly shocking, especially if you know the mythology of the comics, but there are some misdirections and the strength of the story and the performances is such that the somewhat predictable path is not a detriment. I do think a couple more risks could have been taken, but overall I’m very happy with how the film left off and I’m wondering what’s next for the Marvel Universe, because it’ll be interesting to see how the events in this film affect other properties.

I was actually surprised at how much this film tied in with The First Avenger, but pleasantly so, and there was one scene in particular that I had been hoping was in Avengers Assemble. It’s only a brief moment but it captures the tragedy of what happened to Steve. The action was brutal and the fight scenes were really well-choreographed, and I’d go so far as to say the hand-to-hand combat in this film is the best we’ve seen in the Marvel movies so far. I loved the uses of the shield, and Black Widow and Falcon had their moments to shine as well.

Black Widow’s performance in this film was very enjoyable. I always felt she was shoehorned into Iron Man 2, but here she plays a role that’s integral to the plot and we get some more insight into her character. I know Scarlett Johansson has been clamoring for a Black Widow solo movie and I think she’d be able to pull it off. Anthony Mackie is a brilliant addition to the cast as well. He brings a lot of humor to the role and fits in with the cast as if he’s always been there. He’s also badass as Falcon and the scenes of him flying provide an extra spark to the action.

Being a Marvel movie there are of course references to other characters that fans will be delighted at. I’m sure there are some that I didn’t pick up on but one name in particular stood out, and I actually almost yelled out in delight when he was mentioned. I was a little surprised that Hawkeye wasn’t mentioned, because the film dealt with S.H.I.E.L.D and obviously he has ties to Black Widow (and I suppose Cap as well since they fought together in Avengers Assemble) so I thought there could have been a line explaining that he was out of the country on a mission or something.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was everything I wanted it to be and more. Great action, real heart, good character dynamics and an intriguing story. I found it very engaging and I was actually so wrapped up in the film I completely forgot about the Stan Lee cameo! It packs a hell of a lot into its running time and I can’t wait to see how they follow up on some of the story elements introduced here.

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