It is hard to argue that Captain America The Winter Soldier isn’t the best Marvel movie to date (although, I still think The Avengers is better), but it lacked something and I’m not sure what it was. Watching this film, I couldn’t help but think of this as Marvel’s version James Bond done the way I’ve always wanted to see. It is technically flawless, has a fabulous cast, amazing action and a great, great story but still….
As someone who loves the character of Captain America and is a long time former Marvel fangirl it doesn’t mean I know much about his classic history and villains. My Cap knowledge comes from reading the Avengers and all of his team ups with Spider-Man, Daredevil, etc. My recent CA knowledge is based on writer Ed Brubaker’s amazing work revitalizing him. This film brilliantly brings his wildly popular Winter Soldier story arc to life. At the time the entire concept seemed blasphemous to me, but bringing Bucky Barnes back to life was done so brilliantly that you just had to go with it. Winter Soldier does a fabulous job of translating the primary story beats to the big screen and I loved how the film ended. Not on a melancholy or even sugary sweet note, but a “I now have a personal mission to complete.”
This is the Captain America that I missed from the boring origin story in the first one. He’s sure of himself, has the respect of everyone around him and is just generally the Super Soldier you would expect him to be. The fight sequences are all fast, brutal and bone crushingly realistically choreographed. Chris Evans is flawless, he is an every man that’s out of time, but somehow seems to ooze the effortless charm of an old school farm boy. The great thing about Captain America is he is a soldier who believes in his country, but he doesn’t do so blindly. He questions everything and does what’s right even if it means going against orders.
Cap rightly doesn’t trust Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and when he sees what SHIELD has in store for the country he expresses his concerns about giving up freedom for security. On the other hand his partner Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is the perfect counterpoint for him because she is all about the mission and rarely questions orders. She is so bent on redeeming her past that she has “blinders” on when it comes to carrying out Fury’s orders. Anthony Mackie was surprisingly good as The Falcon and while he’s never been a character I particularly cared for in the comics, his big screen debut couldn’t have been handled better. He had a commanding presence and wasn’t just the sidekick, the costume design was solid and all of his flight sequences where nicely rendered.
I liked Emily VanCamp’s little cameo and while her character name at the end of the film was treated as a throwaway line, it could end up being pretty huge, as long time Cap fans know the significance of her character and it was done slyly as it fit in perfectly with the film’s running joke about Cap needing a girlfriend. Robert Redford brought the gravitas as Fury’s friend and boss Alexander Pierce although I was confused as to a key character point regarding his daughter. Sebastian Stan didn’t have much to say as the Winter Soldier, but he had a lot to do and showed an amazing amount of charisma. You can see the soul beneath his brainwashed killing machine. His eyes conveyed a lot of information that could have been missed in the hands of another actor.
Marvel really has a knack for finding talented, relatively unknown Directors for their properties, yet the risks continue to pay off in spades. Is it because Anthony Russo, and Joe Russo know what they are doing or is it due to the team at Marvel Films having a firm hand in knowing exactly how their Universe should look and feel like? This film strikes the perfect balance between seriousness and fun, while not being angsty or dark.
Whatever the case, this is not only one of the best looking Super Hero films I’ve ever seen, but one of the best shot films I’ve seen in awhile. There is a certain realistic sheen to everything. As a DC Native, almost every sequence filmed in DC looked almost flawless. Right down to a fabulous chase sequence that was bogged down in typical DC Traffic jams. It helps that large chunks of the movie was filmed on location.
This is going to be a common complaint from me for the rest of the summer film season, but I think I would have LOVED Captain America The Winter Soldier if I didn’t walk in feeling like I’ve already seen it.
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