Friday, April 4, 2014

Movie Review: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

Captain America is finally back in the most awesome Marvel film since The Avengers.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier is everything that a fan could have hoped for with Marvel tackling this source material, and yet it is so different than any of the other films that Marvel has ever made.  There is a more down to Earth, realistic aesthetic to this film.  While there is still tons of sci-fi/fantasy concepts on display here, they're done in a nice real world way that keeps the film grounded in its political thriller aspirations.  However, where this film really manages to distinguish itself is in the fact that this might be the most intimate Marvel film made thus far.

Set almost entirely in Washington D.C. this go around, the film picks up roughly a year after the events of The Avengers.  Still a man out of time, Cap finds himself working for SHIELD, doing special ops missions with Black Widow, all the while finding it harder and harder to distinguish the right from the wrong in today's morally neutral society.  Of course, Cap's moral compass puts him at odds with some of SHIELD's more gray area ideas, but when a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier arrives and starts wreaking havoc, a whole big conspiracy involving SHIELD, and just about everything else in Cap's world, starts to unravel.

When I mentioned earlier how intimate this film feels, it's because it truly is a character piece and is more about Steve Rogers' action/reaction to all of the events that unfold in this film.  While there is a large spanning conspiracy that unfurls and bucket-loads of action that represent Captain America in a far more acrobatic way than we've ever seen him before, everything that occurs in this film, occurs not because they wanted action or explosions, but because it is driven by the characters' actions.

Once again, Chris Evans proves he's the right man to wield Cap's shield, with Scarlett Johansson really starting to make the Black Widow more and more her own.  Originally just a piece of eye candy in Iron Man 2, Black Widow's character evolved in The Avengers, and here in The Winter Soldier, Johansson and the folks at Marvel finally deliver the Black Widow of the comics.  There is a cold, cerebral quality to her that contrasts with her desire to do good and to be more human.  Sure, she doesn't have a Russian accent, but who cares when the core personality of the character is there.  Rounding out the superb cast is Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, and the gravitas-lending Robert Redford as a mysterious government man who helps run SHIELD, to say anymore might give away a few good surprises for moviegoers.

That is really the most exciting thing about this film, it's that there are constantly twists and turns, and you never really know where the film is heading next.  Directors Anthony and Joe Russo really surprise here with a very taut directorial style that still manages to have life seeping through the cracks due to their natural affinity for comedy, injecting a nice sense of humor into some very dark moments to keep the ten year old boys relaxed and still having fun even when some intense stuff is happening.

The Winter Soldier is a villain to be reckoned with and is almost like Jaws in the way that whenever he is onscreen, he is wreaking as much havoc and destruction as possible.  You never quite know when the Winter Soldier will show up, and there is something so mysterious about the way he's represented that makes him genuinely terrifying whenever he comes out of nowhere.  However, when more and more is revealed about the Winter Soldier and his origins, just like everything else in the movie for Captain America, things aren't so right and wrong and Cap must fight in that gray area himself in an emotionally powerful final fist fight with his enemy.

Overall, Marvel has delivered one of their finest films with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  It is intense, funny, emotional, and gives your brain a nice workout because it's also very smart and full of nice twists and turns.  Not to mention, it's an action movie, things go boom, punches are thrown, and people fly and shoot stuff.  The fact that there's an emotionally charged story underneath all of the awesome action is merely icing on the cake.

Marvel fanboys are going to love this one, with Marvel fitting in more villains and characters from the comics into this one film than perhaps any other superhero film before it, and it all works organically, these additional characters only show up when it is required to tell the story and not just to be a fan service.  Bottom line is, just buckle up and enjoy the ride of this one.  It's rare to get a film like this in April, so definitely relish in its awesomeness, and also, as always with Marvel, stay till the very tail end of the credits if you want the whole experience that this film has to offer.

I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier an A+!

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