CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER (2014) – FILM REVIEW by PAUL LAIGHT
**Contains clips and spoilers**
Literary and filmic characters are aspirational figures; icons to live one’s life vicariously through in order to escape the often mundane drudge of everyday existence. Essentially, I mostly go to the cinema to witness characters doing incredible things which I either cannot do or will never get the opportunity to do. Some characters I aspire to be more like than others. I’m not a fan of Wolverine or neither am I mad about Superman but can understand why people are. I like Batman and I loved the Avengers film and perhaps surprisingly my favourite character — along with the Hulk and Iron Man — is good old Captain America AKA – Steve Rogers. The reason I like him is thus:
1) He doesn’t like bullies.
2) His character never knew when he was beaten.
3) He’s very by the book and organised and likes order. I imagine he would be very good at managing an office.
4) Having said that he will break the rules if the need arises and question authority if the authority needs to be questioned.
5) His shield is made from Vibranium – a seemingly made-up element which sounds really really cool.
6) He’s an anachronism and character tension comes from not fitting into the present. As I get older I feel the same.
7) Anyone who beats the crap out of movie Nazis is fine by me!
8) Chris Evans is a decent actor as he demonstrated in films like:
Puncture, The Iceman and Captain America: The First Avenger.
9) Captain America’s origins are of working class stock. A little guy come good. He’s not a god or scientist or billionaire or spy. He’s a believable figure to aspire to.
10) He’s living proof drug experimentation can work.
So, divorcing my mind from the overly jingoistic American theme of the costume and political associations with US foreign policy I really looked forward to Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
I loved Iron Man, The Avengers, and Thor and compared to some opinions I read I thought the first Captain America worked well as an origins film. Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 were lacking a bit while Iron Man 3 had some great moments and a witty script. Moreover, Avengers Assemble was an amazing bit of entertainment and Joss Whedon did a great job bringing the team together. Likewise, Captain America: TWS delivers in a way The Avengers did. Although it’s a darker, grounded and more complex film as the screenplay transplants the story of conspiracy thriller Three Days of the Condor (1975) into the Marvel Universe. Also, the CGI is played in a somewhat lower key as the action sequences have a raw, immediate feel to them with proper stunts and hand-to-hand combat rather than feeling green-screened to hell. It felt like the production team had been watching Michael Mann’s Heat and the Bourne trilogy for homework. And boy did that work!
After a prologue where we meet Steve Roger’s soon-to-be-ally Falcon (Anthony Mackie) the Captain is thrown into a mission to rescue a hijacked SHIELD ship in foreign waters. So far-so-Bond but what happens after gets pretty complicated as we’re thrown into a plot involving dirty cops and agents as SHIELD’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is attacked in one of many great set-piece action chases within the movie. The filmmakers don’t rest there though as Captain America himself becomes under suspicion and goes on the run from SHIELD with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) helping him on the road. They got the script pretty decent too when compared to the awful Man of Steel. Definitely worth the price of a cinema ticket and then some.
The classic Hollywood movie model is to standardize and differentiate production and Marvel comic-book films follow the same formula. We know what we’re going to get as standards: one-liners, action, chases, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, big noises and crashes interspersed with some quieter moments where exposition and some character is revealed before the next big on-screen bang. Having said that Captain America: Winter Soldier differentiates itself in terms of characterisation, action and plot twists and it is also pretty strong thematically. It links well the past and present; soldiers attempting to come to terms with post-war issues; Roger’s regret over historical events and a touching Benjamin Buttonesque scene with a character from the first movie. Moreover, there’s also some neat socio-political commentary in their too with references to shadowy NSA operations and Government kill lists. Of course none of this gets in the way of the rip-roaring action.
The action is unrelenting and explosive as he is aided by the gorgeous but deadly Black Widow and war veteran the Falcon. You can see the twists coming (even from the trailer to be honest) and you can’t escape some silly dialogue. Robert Redford adds some class and I really look forward to more in the franchise. You’re going to get a few workmanlike efforts like Iron Man 2 and Thor 2 but this was a blinder. Chris Evans carries the role off perfectly too offering enough grit, humour, muscle and film-star good looks to carry the film brilliantly. And after her amazing performance in weird but wonderful Under The Skin it was good to see Scarlett Johansson kicking butt again. The chemistry between Evans and Johansson adds a fun dimension to the action too.
This isn’t just a great comic-book film it is also a very, very well-crafted big-budget slice of cinema. Directed with verve by the creative duo of the Russo Brothers and the massive production team, Steve Rogers AKA Captain America finds himself post-Avengers pitted against an impressive foe in the Winter Soldier and a legion of other enemies – some very close to home. Of course it wouldn’t be a Marvel film if they didn’t make you wait until the end to see what’s coming next and all I can say is if quality shown in Captain America: Winter Soldier and Avengers: Assemble are anything to go by then Age of Ultron promises to something very special entertainment wise indeed.