Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 2014. Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo. Screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely; based on the Marvel comic by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby.
Starring Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Maximiliano Hernández, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Toby Jones, & Stan Lee. Marvel Entertainment/Marvel Studios.
Rated PG. 136 minutes.
Admittedly, I’m not a huge Marvel fan. Right down to the comics. That being said I’ve always loved comics in general, and just because I’m not a massive fan does not mean I don’t enjoy certain comics. I’m mostly sick of being inundated with constant updates about superhero movies. It isn’t so much the movies themselves – some of them are positively excellent. It’s mostly the saturation of the market with so much at one time really puts me off. That’s just a personal thing. Lots of people LOVE these, obviously. For me, it’d be nice if we had a little bit more time between them. There are just so many going on right now in terms of universe building, as the kids call it, that every year we’re getting 3, 4, and in the coming years it’s only getting bigger.
Aside from any beef I have with the frequency of these films, that takes nothing away from the fact that some Marvel flicks are not only fun to look at, they’re genuinely well written. My problem with certain DC pictures is that the writing, the editing, they’re not matching the performances or some of the directing; and other times the directing doesn’t help, either. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is more than a superhero film. It gives the Marvel world a more thriller feel, as opposed to the adventure element that’s so often captured. Because of the stories, these movies featuring Captain America are akin to almost political-leaning action features. Yes, the superhero stuff is clearly still a major element. But Anthony and Joe Russo take the screenplay and give the audience an exciting, intense, enthralling piece of cinema. For a while I almost forgot certain scenes were even a part of a Marvel movie.
The action of Winter Soldier is top notch. People want to whine and complain, saying critics who give Marvel positive reviews and not DC are paid off. That’s so foolish. Because the problem is that whoever’s editing the DC movies as of late, as well as whomever becomes the last name on the studio list to put their stamp of approval on things, keeps muddling their movies into stories filled with holes. This Captain America feature has its editing squared away. We get crisp action. Each sequence moves appropriately from one to the next, in a logical order (something you’d be surprised – if you were paying attention – to notice the last couple DC movies fucked up on several occasions: I’m looking at you BvS), and in that way the story’s suspense becomes more engaging.
So with solid editing, the intensity of action pieces gets better, more full of impact. You never feel disjointed, even as the action throws us into turmoil alongside the characters themselves. You feel whisked away by the strength of the filmmaking, which makes this better than merely a label of ‘comic book movie’ or to be disregarded negatively as just another superhero flick. Winter Soldier‘s game is strong in the action department, so much so it kept me locked in when usually these films are just mediocre in my eyes.
As I mentioned previously, the writing here is pretty spectacular. The pacing is relentless. Little stops along the way give us time to rest. Then the plot picks up steam, we’re hanging on the very edge, watching Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) try to figure out exactly what to do and where to turn next. Another reason the writing is so good comes from the fact the writers – Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely – aren’t trying to jam a ton of different characters from one universe into a story for the sake of it. The problem with BvS and Suicide Squad in my mind is, in part, due to so many characters vying for attention – particularly in the former, there’s a severe overextended aim to try jamming all these different characters in, rushing to introduce them even if only for a second or two. The Marvel movies have done a better job at spacing their characters out, dividing them up, so that they don’t dogpile into one picture; at least not until Civil War, and even then it all serves a purpose for having so many of them present.
Winter Soldier keeps us focused on Steve and those close to him. Instead of nearly two and a half hours of character upon character, the story hones in on the overarching themes of double dealing government agents, betrayal and loyalty among organisations at the top, among so many other things. There are definitely a good slew of characters, including a nice inclusion of Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, but it isn’t too much. Everybody gets an appropriate look, some more than others. Best of all, the writing is able to draw us deeper into the psyche of Steve Rogers, Captain America himself. We don’t get any half-assed explanations or skewed views into his character. We see him in a tense, uneasy situation where the bonds of his loyalty and his beliefs are tested. Perhaps the best writing of the character there is so far.A few favourite bits:
The elevator scene was too perfect. I love when Cap’s lines are bad ass more than funny quips, like when he asks if anybody would like to get out before they get started. Then proceeds to kick the shit out of everybody there. Moreover, this scene is effectively a big kick off for the major action that follows.
One great instance of editing is when Black Widow (Johansson) and Captain America are out using computers at a local Apple store. It isn’t innovative, it is just one of those nice little moments we see in thrillers, action movies, et cetera. The back and forth between Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) searching for the pair, and the two of them on the run, works well for the increase of suspense. This sequence is pretty pulse pounding for a few moments and helps to show how the Marvel movies follow some of the good rules of filmmaking to add legitimate movie flair to their stories. Instead of concentrating on being all dark and gritty and super edgy, these films stick to the staples, as well as add on lots of nice effects, chase sequences, and damn good fights to keep the entertainment electric.
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, a.k.a Falcon – he is an awesome addition to this movie! There’s a nice casual sense about him in the laid back scenes between him and Rogers. He can also bring the heat in the action sense, alongside the likes of Evans and Johansson, already old hands at this sort of thing. And you CANNOT forget Sebastian Stan: holy fuck, is he ever something in this one. His presence as the eponymous Winter Soldier, the one we once knew as Bucky Barnes, is commanding. He has this evil feeling about him, not just from the physicality of the look and the way he moves, but in the way he gives off this literal cold performance, the chilly looks and facial expressions. Great, great acting.
While I could go on forever, suffice to say this is a 4 star flick. Certain action pieces were a little overdone. The writing is mostly tight as hell, although at times I could’ve done with less cliche and more of an intriguing style of dialogue. I think the best dialogue written comes in the more intense moments while a lot of the rest is a bit campy; I know some dig that, it does nothing for me outside of the comics in which it originally appears.
Nevertheless, I had a great time finally watching this one. I’m not a fan of Captain America as a character, usually. I must say that changed with this one. After the initial setup of the first film I felt more interested in seeing Rogers develop, only getting stronger with this outing. I can’t wait to take in Civil War soon. Because Winter Soldier impressed me, and I want to see more Cap, more Winter Soldier, more Black Widow, all of them. And I feel like the Russo boys are pretty damn solid at this point, more than ever before. Look forward to them keeping their game up.