Film Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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By Jack Spillane

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo, Robert Redford

Running Time: 136 mins
Plot: Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

After the success of The Avengers everyone was talking about what Iron Man would do next. Or how Thor and the Hulk would figure into the expanding Marvel universe. However there was little excitement in the overly straight arrowed Captain America. Despite him being the most down to earth and relatable of the superhero team, he is strangely the hardest sell because of his seeming ordinariness in amongst green rage monsters and Norse demi-Gods. The task then for Marvel is making ‘Cap relevant and cool to the masses, which they have, rather remarkably, done. Rather than throwing out a standard superhero movie they have reverted to a classic Hollywood film-making style with an espionage spy thriller. Meshed with the tropes of a blockbuster, the results are fantastic.

By connecting StevWs3e Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans) with the murky dealings of the Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) headed S.H.I.E.L.D Marvel have struck gold. This is not a simple cash grab, looking to delay time till Avengers: Age of Ultron. First time directors the Russo brothers move the Marvel cinematic universe forward in huge game changing ways, with a film that doesn’t simply settle for mindless action set pieces. There is an interesting story at work that delves into the history of the secretive S.H.I.E.L.D agency, the mysterious Winter Solider and into Captain America’s past which is our first real glimpse of ‘Cap as a character, since his first solo outing was a much more fractured affair. That’s not too say this film is all talk, there is a heap of excellent action that entertains without insulting your intelligence in a Michael Bay-esque manner and even puts Rodgers’ trademark shield to good use.

Chris Evans is once again great as the first Avenger, bringing his assured confidence to what could have been a more rigid, stale character. Evans has really nailed the balance between stalwart leader and fish out of water playfulness so inherent to the character, making him not just the “other one” in the Avengers. He is not supported by a scientist with anger issues this time however. Instead he has the returning Black Widow (Johansson) and newcomer Sam Wilson (Mackie) for back up and they too do an excellent job. Johansson in particular makes a perfect partner to Rodgers as the two spend most of the film together. Also joining the cast is the legendary Robert Redford as an even higher up director in S.H.I.E.L.D. Redford brings a gravitas and presence to the role that only he could, giving his character a hugely important part in the unfolding of the action.WS2

As for the other titular character, the Winter Soldier, Marvel has finally found a villain worthy of being the main antagonist (other than the brilliant Loki). The character, though not fully fleshed out, is far more interesting than whoever the villain was in Thor: The Dark World, who seemed to be evil, well, just because. Without spoiling much, Winter Soldier has something of a complexity to his character that makes his presence more meaningful and frightening than previous Marvel villains who have failed to make an impression. However, while most of this film excels it does falter in the final act, resorting to a more traditional end showdown, which, while never boring is less intuitive than what comes before it. It is certainly entertaining, but given how fantastic and fresh the espionage/spy plot is in a film of this type the return to convention at the end, though expected, is nonetheless disappointing.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a huge step in the right direction for Marvel. Where the second Thor film faltered, ‘Cap 2 thrives. Constantly keeping things moving and keeping the viewer guessing, this a fresh and exciting blockbuster that is arguably the tightest and assured of all the solo character Marvel films thus far, cleverly combining espionage and superhero action. The Marvel universe will change significantly after this film which will only build the hype for future films. Also, utilised well (without being propelled into your face) are the little offhand references to the larger Marvel universe, which are nice, knowing nods to other characters without bashing you over the head (Iron Man 2 anyone?).  However, the biggest success is undoubtedly making Captain America a likable and exciting character, who can now stand out amongst the other titans of the Avengers and make fanboys excited for his next outing. He’s still no Iron Man though, people just love Robert Downey Jnr too damn much.

And of course stay for the mid credits scene – it’s actually worth it this time.

Jack is currently a third year English and Film student who spends far too much time watching movies and television. When he’s not watching them, he’s writing about them.

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aAh! Magazine is Manchester Metropolitan University's arts and culture magazine.

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