Captain America: The Winter Soldier starring Chris Evans and Scarlet Johansson
Warning: Major Spoilers!
This for me is the high-point of the Avengers’ films so far. It cuts out the patriotism of it’s predecessor, adds a healthy dose of Scarlet Johansson and switches from War film to spy thriller with great success. Combining a superhero with a spy storyline is an interesting experiment, but thankfully it’s one that pays off.
It boasts some terrific action sequences (from the small scale fights in an elevator to the final battle on the three helicarriers) with some superlative direction from the Russo brothers. The fight scenes between Captain America and the titular Winter Soldier are suitably cool and fast-paced as well. The film’s soundtrack is functional but forgettable and the script is the cleverest Marvel has delivered so far. It also does what the fans have been craving and grants Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) some more screen time as well as fleshing out Black Widow’s (Johansson) character. No longer is she the strong silent type, as she throws around plenty of quips and playfully teases Captain Steve Rogers (Evans) about his relationship status. Don’t worry though she’s still as bad-ass as ever.
The film introduces several new characters in and around SHIELD, such as Cap’s new friend Sam Wilson, the hero Falcon, a former military man who possesses a pretty cool wing pack – who is also one of the few black superheroes in the Avengers roster. It also adds Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, the leader of SHIELD and Frank Grillo as Brock, the leader of the SHIELD strike team Cap works with. All are pretty memorable and there isn’t a bad performance in sight. Characters Jasper Sitwell, Maria Hill and Peggy Carter all also return.
The film has three major plot twists – one is exceedingly obvious (the faked death of Nick Fury – did anyone fall for that?) and one is brilliant and makes the film. The revelation that HYDRA has infiltrated SHIELD and that Pierce, Brock, Sitwell (and Agent Ward in Agents of Shield) are all traitors worked extremely well – the odds were really against Cap, Black Widow, Falcon and Maria Hill in the final act (although predictably no important heroes die – it’s Marvel…). Pierce is probably the best human/powerless villain we’ve got so far from Marvel – much better than any of the offerings from the Iron Man films. The revelation (again possible to foresee, specially if you know the comics) that the villainous Winter Soldier is actually a brainwashed Bucky (Steve’s best friend who apparently died fighting HYDRA in the first film) adds a personal element to the battles between the two of them which works better than many other Marvel films. The destruction of SHIELD in the finale is genuinely surprising in that it’s a bold step for Marvel to take. I look forward to seeing the repercussions of this in Age of Ultron (as well as the reappearance of Cap, Falcon and Black Widow, who made a pretty awesome team in this film). Indeed i think this is Chris Evans best performance in the role.
Overall great direction, acting and scripting make this almost on par with the Christopher Nolan films – however it’s predictability and unwillingness to kill any of it’s heroes hold it back from being an all-time great. A major step in the right direction though, one that makes me excited for Captain America 3: Civil War.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5