After The Avengers, Captain America tries to settle into a life decades from his own time.
2011’s Captain America was an oddly underrated period romp, carving out its own unique niche in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with a movie that felt like a real action/adventure throwback.
Three years on and Marvel has basically taken over the box office, with at least two movies a year and the gargantuan mass of The Avengers 2 loitering around in 2015. But before all that, we’ve got another Cappie USA offering in the form of The Winter Soldier.
And wouldn’t you know, they’ve done it again. That is serve up a movie that feels like its own self-contained world while also delivering on the elements we expect from Marvel. In this case, The Winter Soldier errs closer to a kind of conspiracy thriller, with shades of the paranoid movies of the 1970s, spiked with the occasional bombastic set piece.
It’s a fairly thrilling combination, and new directors Joe and Anthony Russo direct the absolute crap out of it. They’re fully on for the several action beats, pitching up a more mobile and athletic Cap in the fight scenes and pulling off a pair of high octane car chases. And they’ve got plenty of gritty moments, political secrets and shadowy figures lurking in the background.
It’s a bit of a cinematic feast, tending towards the darker areas of the universe that the other movies have feared to tread. It’s an interesting decision, contrasted as it is with Cap’s intense virtuousness and the black and white morality of someone like Nick Fury. We’re not used to shades of grey in our superhero movies but The Winter Soldier brings them out beautifully.
There are some bum notes to be found but none that quite spoil the experience. Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier himself is fairly underused and underdeveloped, I’m not sure we’ll see much of him in the future. And Scarlett Johansson’s insistence on constantly beefing up her role means there are times when she’s almost the lead here, despite her character lacking much in the actual character department.
Chris Evans remains perfectly cast in looks and temperament and Sam Jackson gets some great moments as Fury. Anthony Mackie plays things cool and comedic and Robert Redford is legendary enough to pull off the role but could have used some better lines.
Taken as a whole, the events of The Winter Soldier are actually pretty shocking and wide-ranging, but I’ll let you experience them for yourself. It’s a film that shows Marvel is still willing to take chances on tone and filmmakers and the gamble mostly pays off with a stylish, complex and thrilling adventure.