[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B00H7E8IHO][/pullquote] Following the commercial success of Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it makes sense that Phase 2 would build on the individual characters that helped make The Avengers such a monstrous commercial success. Chris Evans patriotic hero Captain America, whose origin story was arguably the most disappointing gets another shot following Iron Man and Thor in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Captain America Steve Rogers (Evans) finds himself having to adjust to the modern world and his position in global spy agency SHIELD. No longer an icon of patriotism in the army, he now fills his days with undercover missions alongside the likes of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) under the gaze of SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). After a series of sudden assassination attempts and odd decisions though, he suddenly finds himself being hunted by The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Escaping various attempts on his life, he learns that the shady council who oversee SHIELD might not be what they seem and Rogers finds himself on the run, never sure who to trust as the insidious HYDRA rears its ugly head once more.
It speaks volumes about the growing confidence in Marvel Studios that individual franchises are now transcending the simple comic book and superhero genre. The Winter Soldier for instance is an old school 1970s inspired political thriller, with elements of techno-phobia reminiscent of a Bourne film. Packed with paranoia, the film is constantly questioning the decision-making of Government (or in this case spy agency), while looking at the idea that ˜the ends justify the means.’ Something which is becoming more prominent in real life, following the endless hacking scandals and the rise of WikiLeaks.
To think that this is from a studio whose previous films include Asgardian Gods and billionaire playboys dressed in giant metal suits. It is a testament to Marvel that they saw an interesting idea and allowed directors Anthony and Joe Russo to run with it. Obviously there is the now obligatory final act which sees a huge sky battle and subsequent enormous machine crashing to the ground, but the spy-themed build-up is beautifully realised, tightly paced and really thrilling.
As is often the case with Marvel blockbusters the CGI visuals here are incredibly detailed and gorgeous to behold. While DC insist of taking the dark, moody look of Gotham into other films, Marvel remain unapologetically bright and colourful. Even here, where the tone of subject matter suggests a washed-out, dreary grim they refuse to cow and offer a beautfil set of vistas and scenes in brilliant daylight. This is the Marvel Universe and they make no excuses for their view of their world.
Chris Evans continues to bring the goods as Cap, mixing superpowers with an honest naivety that underpins the whole narrative. It is Johansson’s Black Widow who is given the opportunity to expand her presence in the Universe though, with a sassy, intelligent and well-rounded performance. So good is Johansson that it seems ridiculous that she hasn’t yet been given her own titled film. People talk about the gamble that Marvel take on properties like Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy, but if they really want to impress why not offer the world a female-led superhero blockbuster.
Newcomer to the franchise Anthony Mackie does well with a limited supporting role as Falcon, while Robert Redford brings gravitas and a certain audience memory for the political thrillers of the 1970s, from which this draws huge inspiration. Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is a little underplayed considering his name is in the title, and while he is great in the scenes that he’s in, there is an element of another wasted antagonist in the Universe.
But quibbles aside, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a stream-lined, ambitious and thoroughly engaging action thriller. It cleverly blends multiple genres and creates a smart, well-forged blockbuster that appeals to audiences beyond the simple comic book fan.