Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Posted: March 28, 2014 in Action, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

timthumb.phpCap is back, and so is the franchise.

With two misfires in the first two superhero movies after the megahit The Avengers, quality control questions in the Paramount Galaxy of the Marvel Cinematic Universe surfaced. Iron Man 3 was little more than an empty shell in comparison to its predecessors, and Thor: The Dark World was execrable, playing like a Roger Corman-ripoff of the Hobbit movies. A lot was riding on the shoulders of Steve Rogers, but like with every fight he’s been in since World War II, the Super Soldier prevails. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the most crowd-pleasing comic book flick since the original Iron Man.

As the story begins, Rogers (Chris Evans) is laden with a level of PTSD never before experienced. Fellow veterans are dealing with the fallout from their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, while he is still recovering from the fresh losses of his childhood best friend, James “Bucky” Buchanan, to the battle with the Nazis and his sweetheart, Peggy Carter, to old age and dementia. Filling his free time is a problem, he explains to the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), as the other members of his barbershop quartet are dead. So Cap throws himself into his work, which generally involves throwing himself out of an airplane without a parachute.

The plot is consistent with the theme of adjustment. The enemies America and its namesake favorite son now face are more likely to be sporting flag lapel pins than wearing enemy uniforms, and the good Captain must wrestle with the modern definition of patriotism and what is done in its name. “This isn’t freedom,” Cap says to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), referring to the prototype SHIELD helicarrier (a flying aircraft carrier that can identify and eliminate threats at the rate of 1000 casualties per minute). “This is fear.”

That’s not the attitude that Secretary of Something Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) wants to hear. He’s the Washington suit responsible for SHIELD and for preserving the post 9-11 American Way of Life. A clash of ideals is inevitable, heightened by the possibility that a conspiracy is in motion. And lurking behind the scenes is a ghost: the Winter Soldier, a Soviet-made assassin responsible for deaths dating back over 50 years. Yeah, the story is as pulpy as any good comic should be.

One strength of the screenplay, written by the team responsible for 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, is the ample space given to the supporting cast. Jackson and Johansson finally have the opportunity to flesh out their characters within a Marvel movie. Captain America’s modern era sidekick, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), is introduced with a backstory and technology suitable for 2014. Mixed martial arts fighter Georges St. Pierre has a memorable turn as a bad guy. His fight with Cap is so beautifully choreographed and executed that it has the unfortunate effect of overshadowing the later throwdowns with the Winter Soldier. The only weak link here is Redford. He displays no presence or charisma, no depth, subtlety, nuance or even sliver of context. But give full credit to Chris Evans for making it all work nonetheless. Two films into the series, he owns the character, the same way Robert Downey, Jr. is Iron Man.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo establish a frenetic pace in the early going and generally manage to sustain it through the 136-minute run time. They seamlessly blend in elements from the first movie through flashbacks, newsreels, a Smithsonian museum exhibit, and even photos on the wall of an abandoned building. There are welcome flashes of genuine wit, including an Easter egg on the headstone in the final scene that solidifies Captain America: The Winter Soldier as completely satisfying Cineplex entertainment.

Four stars.

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