CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
2014, PG-13, 136 mins.
2014, PG-13, 136 mins.
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America / Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury / Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow / Sebastian Stan as James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes / Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon / Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones / Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill / Toby Jones as Arnim Zola / Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter / Georges St. Pierre as Batroc the Leaper / Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
Directed by Joe Russo and Anthony Russo / Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
WATCH my review of the film on CTV Morning Live Saskatoon HERE
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER Ė the ninth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and arguably its most richly written and thematically complex Ė does what all superior and ambitious sequel should do: It takes established characters and thrusts them into an enthralling and new story that segregates itself substantially from its predecessor.
first CAPTAIN AMERICA
film explored the origins of the once diminutive Steve Rogers and his
journey into becoming a super serum induced, Nazi butt kicking patriotic
force. That film was a
gloriously realized World War II era adventure film, which I loved, but
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLIDER is an even better and more confident
film, placing the time displaced super hero in the modern age and right
smack dab in the middle of a vast political conspiracy that has him
questioning his own nationalistic loyalties.
the endlessly fascinating hook to THE WINTER SOLDER: Not only does poor
old Steve have to acclimatize himself to a world thatís foreign to him
(remember, he was frozen in suspended animation in the 1940ís and later
discovered and thawed out in the present), but his once flag-waving level
of derring-do and sense of justice are really thrown upside down by the
inherent cynicism of today. In
WWII, his enemies were clearly defined and motives for fighting them
seemed crystal clear, but now the Captain finds himself occupying a
paranoid post-9/11 world where enemies are faceless and ill defined and
his very countryís methods at taking them on are questionably oblique.
The real genius of THE WINTER SOLDER is how it portrays Captain
Americaís growing disillusionment with the country heís sworn to
defend, especially when heís battling forces unnervingly close to him.
Like, perhaps, THE DARK KNIGHT,
this film entrenches the super hero film aesthetic and milieu within a
story that coldly reflects out own times, which helps makes these films
simmer with more immediacy and relevance than its other comic book
years after the battle of New York (as detailed in the climax of THE
AVENGERS), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself still
trying to find a place for himself in a contemporary world while living in
Washington, DC and working for S.H.I.E.L.D. (amusingly, he keeps a list in
a journal of things to catch up on, which includes, among other things,
STAR WARS, disco, Thai food, and Marvin Gay music).
Early in the film the Captain finds himself on a routine, yet still
dangerous S.H.I.E.L.D. mission for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) that
involves infiltrating and stopping the hijacking of a shipping freighter.
Captain America is joined on his mission by his new partner, Natasha
Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), but the more embroiled they become in it
the more the Captain begins to realize that Fury may or may not have been
straight with him about the real governmental imperatives behind the
mission. After completing their
covert assignment, the Captain grows jaded and conflicted not only about his
relationship with Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., but also with the U.S. government in
malaise turns to outright paranoia when Fury becomes the target for
assassination, which leaves a huge rift between the Captain and just about
everyone he closely works with at S.H.I.E.L.D..
Trusting virtually no one beyond himself, Natasha, and a new ally
in Sam Wilson (a war vet with unique skills in aerial combat that does not
involve planes, played by Anthony Mackie), the Captain and his partners go
on the run and evade capture to discover the seedier underbelly and
history of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Along
the way, the Captain has verbal confrontations with high ranking
S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and, more
severely, comes face-to-face with his new enemy, ďThe Winter Soldier,Ē
an ex-Soviet assassin that suspiciously seems to have most of the
laboratory concocted abilities that the Captain possesses.
When the real identity of his new enemy is revealed, the Captain
finds himself fighting a new war with a deeply personal slant that even he
wasn't prepared to take on.
perhaps just about any of the other Marvel films to date (the first
CAPTAIN AMERICA included), THE WINTER SOLDIER greatly benefits from its
decidedly more old school approach as a savvy and suspenseful potboiler
thriller in the same vibe as 1970ís political paranoia classics like THE
PARALLAX VIEW and THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR.
Granted, the standard and obligatory accoutrements of the super
hero genre are here in abundance, but writers Christopher Markus and
Stephen McFreely seem less interested in eye-popping action and spectacle
as they are in telling a tightly wound and tense conspiracy story that
really taps into the Captainís increasingly troubled psyche.
The writers seem equally keen and daring enough to force Steve
Rogers to deal with the disheartening reality of what existing as a
square-jawed crusader means in a modern age of omnipotent technology, a
lethal military industrialize complex, and unscrupulous politicians that
turn a blind eye to ethics at any moment.
THE WINTER SOLDIER is an alarmingly accurate portrayal of the
socio-political nihilism we live in, and the shrewd manner that itís
adeptly sew into the fabric of a super hero genre here is one of THE
WINTER SOLDIERís crowning achievements.
not to say that the film is bereft of action and spectacle, mind you.
Gone out of the directorís chair is Joe Johnson (who pitch
perfectly crafted the first filmís nostalgic glow and flavor), and in
now are Joe and Anthony Russo, a duo that previously directed episodes of TVís
COMMUNITY, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and helmed the comedy YOU,
ME, AND DUPREE, which hardly seems like worthwhile credentials to
helm a blockbuster popcorn film. Alas,
and rather astoundingly, the Russo brothers prove themselves to be
remarkably equal to the task of marrying the filmís more introspective
and character driven moments with rock solid and dazzling action sequences
that have a propulsive energy and clarity.
Thereís a spectacularly realized scene involving the Captain
literally crashing his way through apartment walls while in foot pursuit of the
Winter Soldier, not to mention a brilliantly mounted combat scene set in a
tightly confined elevator pitting Rogers versus multiple armed opponents.
Perhaps more so than in the last CAPTAIN AMERICA film, the Russos
really amp up the stunning dexterity and lethal blunt force of their title
hero here to thrillingly bombastic effect.
for all of the filmís multi-million dollar sheen (it is a super hero
film, after all), THE WINTER SOLDIER still finds time to refreshingly hone
in on character dynamics. Chris
Evans has certainly eased and matured into his role as his star spangled
avenger, but there still remains those that find the actor too low key and
lacking in charisma in the role. Yet,
what makes Steve Rogers so endearing, relatable, and arguably the most
identifiable persona in the Marvel Universe is his everyman soul.
Heís not the loveably narcissist that is Tony Stark or the
grandiose Norse God that is Thor; Captain America is a relaxed,
self-assured, but internally guilt-ridden hero caught between a huge rift
of serving and protecting his country and exposing those that work within
his nation as criminal fiends. Evans
commands himself nicely to his tricky role, which is complimented by
equally refined supporting work by Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L.
Jackson, both of whom have had their roles more thoroughly expanded this
go around. The real casting
coup may be Redford, whose appearance here reflects and ironically
comments on his own participation in classic conspiratorial thrillers of
yesteryear that THE WINTER SOLDIER is trying to emulate.
I thought that CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER was a grand entertainment. Iím frankly astonished by how much more I enjoyed the breathlessly paced and authoritatively directed THE WINTER SOLDIER. It elevates itself far above the other pantheon of Marvel films by driving Captain America head-on into a gripping and highly topical story that not only has a tremendous ripple effect for him as a character, but for the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as well. That, and it balances its slam-bang action, stunning visual effects, and quieter and reflective moments with a real poise. The film has a sense of relative closure for its narrative while simultaneously ending on a cliffhanger, of sorts, to propel the further adventures of Steve Rogers forward. I await them with great eagerness.
MY CTV REVIEW: