Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a bold step in the right direction for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Playing with elements of 70’s conspiracy thrillers, there’s a serious sense of paranoia surrounding Captain America: The Winter Soldier that gives Marvel its most serious film yet (and the best Phase 2 picture to date, without question). While Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World were bogged down by the overuse of humor and lack of focus, Winter Soldier takes a more serious route and delivers the goods in ways that we haven’t seen from Marvel yet.
We catch up with Captain America/Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) as he tries to settle down a bit after the chaotic events in New York. He regularly takes part in S.H.I.E.L.D. missions along with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), which are assigned to them by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Just as in The Avengers, Captain America has major issues with the secrets of S.H.I.E.L.D., seriously questioning whether their goals are truly good for America. With the introduction of The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), all the fears that Captain had start arise, throwing trust completely out the window.
Captain is forced to figure out the truth seemingly on his own, but there are still some friends to be found. Along with Fury and Romanoff, there is Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, returning from The Avengers), Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp), and of course, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who becomes a sidekick of sorts to Captain America. They have each other, but it’s hard to know who to confide in, especially with S.H.I.E.L.D. Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) seemingly having questionable intentions that will put the whole world at stake. It’s tough to say anymore about the plot without ruining the film, so go in there knowing as little as possible (if you’re not already familiar with the material) and you’ll leave very pleasantly surprised.
There’s a lot of moving pieces and rather deep plot points that require careful viewing in order to stay on top. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have a solid handle on a script penned by the writing team of Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. They find an even balance between elements of conspiracy thrillers and the necessary duties at hand when dealing with a superhero movie.
You will feel more connected to Captain America than ever before, really feeling for him as a character. This felt like the most grown up entry from Marvel and it’s all the better for it. There’s still plenty of fun to be had, with loads of twists and turns to keep Marvel’s fans at bay. All the necessary action and explosions are there (there’s plenty – maybe too much – as you’d expect) with Markus and McFeely capturing the action with a noticeable intensity that works in its favor. Things sometimes move too fast and a bit chaotically, but on the whole it’s a very impressive job.
Chris Evans is right at home as Steve Rogers/Captain America, embracing the character with more confidence and depth than ever before. He really is Captain America, you can just feel it. Both Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson finally get regular screen time this time around, fully fleshing out their characters, therefore making them feel more well-rounded and essential to the series as a whole. Robert Redford is mysterious and devious as Alexander Pierce, doing a fine job at keeping you on your toes. Frank Grillo has some solid screen time as Brock Rumlow, an untrustworthy agent within S.H.I.E.L.D. Anthony Mackie absolutely steals the show as Falcon, providing every scene he is in with a definite swagger that the actor hits completely out of the park. He added a fare share of humor that was actually well done and (for once) felt somewhat needed in a film as serious as this. Mackie is a welcome addition to the team, for sure.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a step-forward in every way for Marvel, elevating the series to heights I wasn’t sure were possible. Although it does run a bit long (as most Marvel movies do) at 136 minutes, with plot points getting a tiny bit heavy-handed, the film is a winner in almost every way. It benefits from finding a serious tone (very welcomed) to act as a game changing force that sets up the future entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe quite nicely.
Don’t be mistaken, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best stand-alone entry yet, also sitting right up there with The Avengers. It’s a winner in every way.