Monday, April 14, 2014

Review of Captain America: Winter Soldier

First off, let me admit one thing; I didn’t like Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s an okay action war movie but it didn’t resonate with me. Honestly, I just have no interest in watching a superhero fighting in WWII.

Captain America: Winter Soldier however is a movie I like.

Sequel to 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, the film is also the ninth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and as such, the movie got most of its’ cast back with Chris Evans (Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) all back in action.

The story takes place about 2 years after the Battle of New York (as shown in the Avengers movie), and Steve Rogers is now living in Washington, D.C. Working for S.H.I.E.L.D, he and Black Widow are sent on a mission to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from pirates led by mercenary Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). Unknown to Rogers, the Black Widow has another mission of her own and the two conflicting missions allow Batroc to escape. Something Rogers then confront Fury on.

An unapologetic Fury shows Rogers the extent he’s willing to go to eliminate threats to the safety of the world; three next-gen Helicarriers linked to spy satellites and designed to preemptively kill enemies from afar. Fury is then ambushed and injured by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier, but not before warning Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised.

From there, the movie becomes an old-school conspiracy thriller as Captain America and his allies try to uncover who has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and what their agenda is.

Just this plot alone makes this a better movie than The First Avenger! Captain America: Winter Soldier is an edgier, more complex movie that embraced the question of the trade-off the world has made post 9/11. Back by a sharp script written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, directors Anthony and Joe Russo put together a movie that feels almost Bourne-like at times.

A well-balanced film, there are some powerful scenes in this film not least of which is the confrontation between Nick Fury and Alexander Pierce. Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford (as Pierce) knocked the scene out of the park as they try to convince each other on the righteousness of their cause. I found Robert Redford to be an extremely convincing, compelling villain and hope he’ll return in some form to the role (hint, hint).

Chris Evans also did a fine job here as he grows into the Steve Rogers role. Vastly more comfortable now, Evans play Rogers as the character he is; a man out of time who’s unsure of his role in the modern world but is still going to fight because as the ultimate soldier, that’s the only thing he knows how to do. Evans Rogers’ vulnerability in this film, while still being a kick-ass name-taking super-soldier, is brilliantly portrayed by Evans. 

I also liked the name-dropping of various Marvel characters throughout the movie. You got Stark, Banner, and Doctor Strange and outside them, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, the Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver at the very end. As the saying goes, a hero is only as good as his villains and in this movie, the villains were very impressive. Outside Pierce, both Batroc the Leaper and Crossbones were great. Frank Grillo’s Brock Rumlow (Crossbones) is a bad-ass who pretty much beat up everyone in the movie not named Steve Rogers.

Of course there are some sore points.

I give the film credit for trying but I just can’t buy the link between Steve Rogers and Bucky. If you did not see the first movie, the friendship between the two would make little sense and even if you did, you’ll have a hard time understanding why their friendship is so important to Rogers that he’ll risked the safety of the world for it.  

Also, I felt the performance of Scarlett Johansson stuck up like a sore thumb in this movie. I don’t know if it’s because of the great performances here by other people (Evans, Redford etc) but Scarlett Johansson look bored in this movie. Her Black Widow in Avengers and Iron Man 2 were much, much better.

However this second Captain America installment is without doubt one of the better
film in the MCU and even if you are not into superhero movies, Captain America: Winter Soldier also works as an espionage thriller. In short, Captain America: Winter Soldier isn’t just a good superhero movie; it’s a good movie period!

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