Just when I feared that superhero movies would get repetitive and fall into a routine, out comes Marvel to prove me wrong. Again.
The sequel features Chris Evans back behind the shield as Captain America working now as a top spy for the SHIELD agency under Nick Fury’s orders. Of course, he’s not too happy working for an agency that seems strangely concerned with preemptive military strikes and spying on everyday individuals (not ripped from today’s headlines or anything). But his very odd world gets turned upside down (again) when the Winter Solider slams onto to the scene and gives the Captain a run for his money as baddest dude on the block.
What’s really interesting about this Marvel superhero movie, is that it doesn’t ACT like a superhero movie. It acts more like a spy movie than anything else, combining The Bourne Identity’s lone man against the Government with 007’s bombastic spectacle jacked up to a ludicrous degree. Then again that’s why you have Robert Redford here turning in a very subtle performance as Nick Fury’s superior. Before becoming a Hollywood icon, Redford was known for staring in spy capers like Three Days of the Condor and Spy Game (good movies you should check out if you haven’t already).
Holding it all together is Chris Evans as the Captain. I can’t stress how refreshing it is to have a hero who’s pretty much all good, all the time. Unwilling to compromise his values even in the face of so much cynicism, he presses on unlike another superhero who wore blue and red last year…but enough ragging on Man of Steel. He’s joined by Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow, and I gotta say, they had an undeniable chemistry between them. Funny thing was it wasn’t even romantic chemistry, they just worked so well on screen together that the scenes between action set pieces had more gravitas behind them.
The big new star though is definitely Anthony Mackie as the Falcon. Mackie’s been a hardworking actor for quite a while, and it’s nice to see a guy like him break onto the scene with a big blockbuster that will get people to know his name. And of course, Samuel Jackson absolutely kills at as Nick Fury (there’s a great little joke about him in a graveyard, pay attention to what’s written on the tombstone).
Of course, the action is takes a very interesting story from the realm of good to great. The set pieces all escalate from one to another, and it all moves to a spectacular climax that has become one of my favorite all-time final battles in film.
Then there’s the ever present themes of the movie of surveillance, and the line between security and freedom. It’s pretty obvious that it’s referring to the past decade and a half of the War on Terror and the NSA Security Leaks. That being said, comic books have had a history of tackling difficult topics like the above and filtering it through the lens of costumed heroes and villains. Surprisingly, it’s an effective storytelling mechanic that filters out the white noise of the media and politics, and gets you into the nitty gritty of the morality of security in the 21st century.
With a smart script, great acting, and sweet action; honestly the only downside to this whole party is the camerawork. It’s fine in most places, and I doubt many people on my Facebook will even notice it, but I was getting a little irritated with several closeups during fight scenes. While that was for either for accommodating stunt men or toning down the violence, I will not know, but if you came looking for a great hand-to-hand combat scene, you might be disappointed. Also, I kinda feel The Winter Soldier didn’t get much development (especially when you find out who he exactly is), which is kinda of downer, but they really didn’t have too much room for it in this already 2 hour movie.
But if you’re looking for multiple crazy shootouts? A well choreographed car chase? And some great character development and world building in between? Then Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the movie for you. Can’t wait for the sequel…