Thursday, April 10, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The First Avenger is easily one of my favorite superhero movies. Like the director's previous work The Rocketeer, The First Avenger was a period piece that was just good, old fashioned fun. When I learned the sequel would be going in a more serious direction, I was somewhat nervous.

Thankfully, my fears turned out to be unfounded. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is easily one of the best Marvel films to date.

After the battle with the Chitari invaders during the final act of The Avengers, genetically-enhanced super-soldier Steve Rodgers is now an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., handling a number of missions for the powerful organization. However, not everything is at it seems when Nick Fury is seemingly assassinated by a mysterious culprit known simply as "The Winter Soldier" and Rodgers becomes a wanted man. Can Captain America, Black Widow, and the new comer the Falcon discover the truth behind this conspiracy before it's too late, or will they become its newest victims?

Unlike the previous film, The Winter Soldier possesses a much more serious tone. In many ways, the movie resembles a political thriller set in a world where superheroes exist. However, the films doesn't let this new tone overpower the film. The Winter Soldier manages to hold onto the underlying feeling of hope that made The First Avenger great and infuses this darker tale with some well-written humor and fun action scenes that give the film a since of equilibrium and make the film incredibly enjoyable.

The film is also enhanced by a talented cast who all give excellent performances. Chris Evans continues to prove that he was born to play the role of Steve Rodgers, perfectly capturing the essence of the character and making him feel like a real, three-dimensional human being. Scarlett Johansson is equally fantastic, breathing life into a rather complex character and possessing some real platonic chemistry of Evans, making you believe these two characters would work well together as a team and would eventually become friends. Anthony Mackie does a fine job with the new character of Sam Wilson, presenting this veteran as a likable individual who just wants to do what's right and Sebastian Stan is excellent as the Winter Soldier, managing to be terrifying at one moment and tragic the next.

Finally, the directing and writing are top notch. Anthony and Joe Russo, a pair who are not really known for action films, definitely show off their directing chops. Almost every scene is tight and uses the visual language of film superbly. This is only enhanced by a solid script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Its smartly written and doesn't treat its audience like children, which is a nice change of pace from hand-holding nature of most modern blockbusters.

However, the film does have a few blemishes. While I felt the film's twist was great and I enjoyed its villains, I felt their motivations were a little simplistic. While that's not necessarily a bad thing and I would rather they keep something simplistic instead of overtly complicated, I wish their motivations had a little more meat to them. Also, some of the foreshadowing at the beginning of the film was a little too on the nose at times.

Thankfully, these minor problems do not ruin the film in the slightest. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is probably the 2nd best Marvel film to date, just barely falling short of The Avengers. The film manages to go a darker, more suspenseful route without loosing the sense of hope and fun that was present in its predecessor. If I haven't made it clear by now, I love this film and it easily blew past all my expectations. You will be doing yourself a great disservice if you don't go see this film as soon as humanly possible.