Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

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WARNING: SPOILERS are included. Please skip this post if you wish to avoid them. They will be discussed somewhat.

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a beautifully executed superhero flick with a touch of 1970s style political thriller for tone. It was tense and the stakes felt high. The script is cleverly written and manages to balance the sublime minutiae of Cap struggling to adjust to the modern world with the entrenched espionage conspiracy. It’s not a carbon copy of the pages of the Winter Soldier arc but keeps the spirit of it nonetheless. It is, in many respects, a game changer for Marvel Studios and definitely one of their best films to date.

Huge credit goes to the various collaborators of this production. Without Ed Brubaker, this would not have been possible. He laid the foundation for Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to build upon. Henry Jackman’s compositions evoke the mood and atmosphere of the scenes perfectly. I guess the fears of not living up to Alan Silvestri are unfounded. Kevin Feige shows us again why he’s a visionary and has a keen eye for talent. Not many producers or even comic book fans would choose the Russo brothers (“You, Me, and Dupree”, “Community”) to helm a politically-charged and emotional tale. He saw that they were big fans of the Ed Brubaker run and had potential after directing some good episodes of Community.

As for the cast, Chris Evans does a stellar job again as Captain America. He manages to show a more serious and ruthless side to Cap while maintaining that Boy Scout core forged in the early 20th century. Scarlett Johansson was surprisingly impressive this time around as the Black Widow. She keeps getting better and better with each film. Joss Whedon may have helped her fine-tune her performance as Natasha Romanoff in the Avengers but it was her turn in the Winter Soldier where she perfectly nailed the character’s characterization. Anthony Mackie showed great chemistry with Steve Rogers while evoking that same empathy as Chris Evans. Frank Grillo was menacing enough as Brock Rumlow aka Crossbones. Emily VanCamp was a decent choice for Sharon Carter and wasn’t just a “glorified cameo” as some feared. Robert Redford brings gravitas to any role and film. The inclusions of character actors Alan Dale (“The O.C.”) and Chin Han (“The Dark Knight”) were nice touches as well. It totally makes sense that a real estate Ponzi schemer and corrupt banker would be in charge of a ruthless spy agency. It was also fun to see the return of Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Atwell, Garry Shandling, Toby Jones, and Maximiliano Hernandez.

However, like many others, I was nervous about Sebastian Stan’s return. I enjoyed him well enough as Bucky Barnes but repeated viewings and discussions have managed to erode that. Thankfully, these apprehensions disappeared during the film. He was better at being the Winter Soldier than he ever was as Bucky Barnes. Sure, the emotional range of the Winter Soldier is limited at this point in his life but Sebastian Stan pulled it off without distracting from the film.

Large improvements aside, the film is not without its flaws. Espionage and superhero clichés pepper the film, especially in the 3rd act. I can imagine a lot of people groaning at how Cap and Natasha managed to avoid getting caught in public places using the most hackneyed techniques in the spy film genre. Some kinks also confound the credibility of Fury’s resurrection plan. Editing for the action scenes could have been better as well.

All in all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best thing so far out of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unlike the previous two films, it doesn’t return things to the status quo. We actually feel and see a great change. It brings us back to how Phase 1 developed where BOTH plot and characterization actually moved forward. This film literally paved the way for the Age of Ultron.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Image courtesy of Marvel©

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