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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Movie Review - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Starring Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, and Toby Jones
Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

I was not a fan whatsoever of the first Captain America film presented by Marvel.  There was something about the eccentric over-the-top villain, supporting actors that added nothing to the story, and a bland leading actor that had me yawning and finding the film the second worst Marvel movie to date (it's only ahead of Thor 2).  Needless to say, because of this disappointment in the first film, I was dreading the second in part because the only thing I liked about the initial installment -- the 1940s setting and aesthetic -- was now going to be completely removed from the equation seeing as at the end of the first film our title character had been frozen and woken up thawed nearly seven decades later.  Color me surprised to discover that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is Marvel's best movie to date and a massive upgrade from its predecessor.

Although he fought alongside all of the Avengers not that long ago, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still getting acclimated to modern society as Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens.  Working for intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., Steve goes on various missions alongside Natasha Romanov AKA The Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) under the direction of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who heads the agency.  Fury has doubts about a major new initiative -- Project Insight -- that will utilize three helicopter-ish devices to link to spy satellites and eliminate potential threats before they happen.  After discussing his concerns with project leader and S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Fury ends up being ambushed by a large group of men headed by a masked man known as The Winter Soldier whose identity will create a bit of chaos for Steve and his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. colleagues setting up a battle within the falls of the spy agency itself.

Although the film blows it at the end by creating a much-too-long final battle sequence, the build up to that in directors Anthony and Joe Russo's film is surprisingly tense and exciting.  Anchored by a very strong opening scene in which Captain America and Black Widow invade a spy ship, the directing brothers up their game in each subsequent action sequence culminating in an intense showdown on the streets of Washington, D.C.  Unfortunately, that showdown comes in the middle act of the film as opposed to the end, but the lack of a really taut finale actually proved to be less of a let down than I thought perhaps because everything prior to that was so darn good.

As a character, I found Steve Rogers to be bland and lifeless in the first film, but he came alive in The Avengers and continues that streak here.  His repartee with his fellow agents was dryly amusing and Chris Evans more than carries the film with the help of his humorous and captivating co-star Scarlett Johannson.  The duo work extremely well together and create an atmosphere that exudes fun and amusement in all their scenes together.  Nice work from Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, and Robert Redford round out the very good ensemble.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier works best, however, because I think this is the Marvel film that's most based in reality.  While many of the devices that are utilized and inventions that are created are rather preposterous, the stakes feel the most real here in this film as opposed to many others.  Main characters are put into situations that are incredibly difficult from which to escape and it's entirely possible they won't.  This sense of tension adds a great deal to the impact of the film which is the best flick I've seen thus far come out of the Marvel Universe.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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