Captain America: The Winter Soldier (12a)
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Frank Grillo, Sebastian Stan and Scarlett Johansson
Running time: 136 min
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.
Oh boy, this is a tough one to review. This movie is so richly layered with plot and character that’s it’s actually very difficult to not give spoilers… but I shall endeavour.
If you have seen the trailer, you know a little of what is going on here. But, magnificently, despite being one of the movies that everyone complained about because so much was revealed pre-release, the footage seen so far has given very little away. And that’s wonderful. What you have seen in the trailers which IS true is that, after the events of Avengers, the world has become a very, very paranoid place. SHIELD, now the embodiment of ‘big brother’, is taking action that will see the world defended from the ‘bad’ people, not just when things happen but, by watching everyone on the planet, before they happen. Sound familiar in a post-911 world?
This doesn’t sit well with Steve Rogers/Captain America, who believes the world is no longer safe but instead is run by fear. But he has no idea just how deep and far the fear runs and the endgame is something that few will see coming… and believe me when I say that the repercussions of this movie will be felt in every Marvel show released from here on in – be it TV or cinema – and gives you reason to reassess what you have watched already this far (it especially explains a scene in Avengers that has always, until now, confounded me). This movie is a real game changer.
The genius of this movie is that the Russo brothers manage to create a dark thriller that is also laced with bright fun. It feels like a 70s espionage thriller writ large as Hydra once again raises its head is a way you’ll never see coming. The performances are tight and two additions and standouts are Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce, the man at the very top of SHIELD, and Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson or as he’s known in hero mode, The Falcon who serve to, once again, populate a world that many fans never would have dreamed they’d see on screen. Both actors ooze charisma and bring a whole new dynamic to the outing.
But the character we all want to know about is The Winter Soldier (TWS) himself. A character tied into Cap’s past, TWS is a ghost, a fairy tale that is told to scare agents and soldiers. Only he is all too real and he’s gunning for SHIELD in a way that no-one has dared before and he hits hard, causing ripples that reach pretty much every character onscreen. And will ripple out for many movies to come. Shaw’s performance here is mostly physical as TWS is a mercenary not given to human emotion, however, this just makes it all the more powerful when it comes.
But, while the plot is heavy and dark and will go real-world places you never expected this sort of movie to visit, this remains a fun and exciting ride. The action scenes are brutal and beautiful. while never reaching the scale of Avengers, there are several times where you will need to remember to breathe; one action scene which takes place on a highway around the halfway mark is on a par with Heat only with more flying heroes and explosions. It’s THAT good.
Overall, Captain America’s second outing hits hard and fast and succeeds on every level. The story is brave and expansive, leaving me wondering where the franchise is going next (on a side note, given what we see here, the notion of an Agent Carter series just go a heck of a lot more exciting). The performances are strong, Evans knocks it out of the park this time out with more to do than look earnest and confused. And the action is simply sublime… oh, and there’s two after-credit scenes, so get comfortable.
Overall, a brave new direction for Phase II, The Winter Soldier is simply a triumph that, minus a few very minor issues, is pretty damned hard to fault. Big, ballsy, dark and fun, The Russos have just raised the comic book bar.
5 out of 5 Nerds