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Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Joint Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 3 April 2014
 
Director: Anthony Russo - Joe Russo
 
Writer: Christopher Markus - Stephen McFeely [Screenplay] - Ed Brubaker [Story] - Joe Simon - Jack Kirby [Comic]
 
Cast: Chris Evans - Samuel L. Jackson - Scarlett Johansson - Robert Redford - Sebastian Stan - Anthony Mackie
 


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Posted April 12, 2014 by

 
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Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Joint Review

Louis Skye’s Perspective:

How do you bring originality to a comic book franchise that has already spanned eight films? By throwing out the rulebook. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is unlike any other Marvel film, combining the suspense of spy-thrillers with the pace of a blockbuster.

Winter Soldier sees Captain America (Chris Evans) join forces with fellow Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to rescue S.H.I.E.L.D. agents who are being held hostage by the pirate Baltroc. What starts off as a routine mission soon becomes a matter of life and death as Fury finds himself attacked by rogue police and a masked man with incredible strength.

Captain America and Black Widow have barely any time to deal with this attack on Fury when former allies turn on them. Unable to trust anyone, the two heroes go on the run in the hopes of discovering the identity of their adversaries and stop millions of innocent people from being murdered in cold blood.

The first Captain America film spent almost its entire duration introducing the audience to Steve Rogers but this film welcomes the participation of all the other characters. Winter Soldier especially benefits from an increased presence of Nick Fury, who, truth be told, had too little to do in The Avengers. Fury gets his own story-arc here that neatly ties into the main plot and progresses the film.

Unlike the CGI-heavy films that we are offered these days, Winter Soldier’s action is grounded in realism. I’m not saying there’s no CGI, of course there is, but the fight scenes don’t make much use of it, which is commendable and greatly enhances the look and feel of the film.

The action sequences are, as expected, exciting and well-directed, but what really sets this film apart is the complex plot. There is a lot happening in the film and one needs to concentrate to make the connections. Every detail is significant, every character an important cog in the Marvel-wheel.

However, the most significant aspect of Winter Soldier, for me, is how surprisingly emotional the film is. You don’t expect an action film to have much heart, but this film does. The focus on friendships gives it an extra dimension. Coupled with some moments of stellar acting from the cast and you will need to reach for your handkerchief.

Some are hailing Winter Soldier as the best superhero film ever and though I wouldn’t go that far, I have to say that it is a very well-accomplished film with surprisingly good performances, a tight plot, unexpected twists and stunning visuals. Most importantly, though, it is a film that has successfully subverted the action genre and shown the world that two colourfully-suited people fighting each other can be juxtaposed with a multi-layered story. Undoubtedly, this film has set a new path, not just for Marvel, but for all action films to come. Now let’s see who follows.

Written By:

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.58.57

Louis Skye
Blogging At Warp 10
@LouisSkye77
Freelance Contributor

 

Josh Adams’s Perspective:

Until now, Marvel’s high-water mark had been 2012’s “The Avengers”, a slick, brilliant achievement in movie-making that actually lived up to the hype.  Since then, this universe (groundbreaking as it may be) has been uninspiring.  The mild amusement of “Iron Man 3” coupled with the sub par “Thor: The Dark World” led me to wonder if the franchise had lost its’ mojo.  Considering the lackluster ratings for the tie-in TV show ‘Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, it wasn’t hard for me to suspect that the best this group had to offer might be behind us.

Fortunately, the reports of Marvel’s death are premature.  Not only is “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” Marvel’s best offering, it deserves praise as an excellent film as well, reinvigorating the entire ‘Avengers’ universe.  To paraphrase the Captain himself, take away the suits from this film, and what do we have?  A fantastical surprise- a spy thriller, a political potboiler of a story (in the vein of a ’70s paranoia film), and a topical, dark, cautionary tale. Oh yeah, and a glorious action spectacle.  Sure, audiences may not leave this film pondering existence like they might with a Malick film, but I dare you to find a more entertaining, tense action movie the rest of this year.

When we left Steve Rogers (Evans), he had just finished leading a motley crew of heroes to victory in New York over an army of aliens, then closing a portal to another dimension.  One can imagine that any subsequent mission might seem mundane, but the mundane is what the Captain prefers- he just happens to be inundated with super soldier serum.  The Captain has settled into his role as Nick Fury’s (Jackson) lead dog, but he has grown weary of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s increase in power, and weary of Fury’s excuses for having said power.  The two have mutual respect for each other as soldiers, but sit on different ends of the ideological spectrum.  Fury’s distrust of people has brought him success; Captain America’s distrust in those who distrust people has brought him a modicum of the same.  Fury believes people might just need to be protected from themselves, whereas the Captain stands firm on the idea that any sacrifice of freedom is not right.

The film allows their conflict to spill out on-screen, as the two career soldiers are forced to test their beliefs when a mysterious assassin targets S.H.I.E.L.D. and its’ agents.  As Black Widow (Johansson) explains, this ghost of a bad guy is the stuff of legend.  This legend is responsible for many of the world’s top ‘hits’ over the past 50 years, and she should know- Natasha did, after all, tell us ad nauseam that she has red on her ledger.  The question, of course, is who this emo-cyborg is that keeps showing up to bring the pain, and how much this ‘Winter Soldier’ might mean to Captain America.  While not a groundbreaking comic film antagonist, the Winter Soldier is given a fine arc, bolstered with an effective flashback scene, further enriching our understanding of their special bond.  He’s a righteous opponent for Captain America- both a physical equal and an emotional test.

The assassin’s appearance actually sparks the arrival of a greater evil, the onus for the film’s ever-present tension.  Nick Fury sensed this through his prescient understanding of the world’s rhythms; well, as Gloria Estefan warned us, the rhythm is gonna get you.  Fury is pursued in a scene that rivals the greatest street fights and car chases in film history, and sparks the plot.  The resulting chaos forces our heroes to become fugitives, hunted from every angle by those they worked alongside and trusted until they learn of the real plan.  Without revealing anything crucial, I can say that the script provides appropriate reasons for the treachery, and when viewed as an entire story, brings the ‘Avengers’ arc to a precipitous and revelatory head.  It’s a risky, game-changing decision, bold enough to earn my highest marks, in that it 1) makes sense, and 2) provides real danger to all our heroes- even the ones not in this film.

I imagine it’s also apropos to mention that the good Captain (and Chris Evans) finally gets a chance to stretch his legs as a character here.  His ‘power’ seems more tangible here, and he gets the chance to actually portray some depth, and (gasp) maybe even find a date.  He does end up finding a trusted friend and worthy peer in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a former paratrooper who now spends his time counseling vets dealing with post-war stress.  Sure, the plot needs him, but it was easy to buy Wilson as a peer, for he appears to be much like the Captain- just short of superhero abilities, in which the film finds comedy.  Wilson is an important character in comics- not simply because of his abilities, but because his alter ego ‘Falcon’ (adapted well here to fit a modern context) turned out to be the first African-American superhero in major comics.  The script gives this character a sensible role in this universe, one that is likely to expand.  The film even allows for Black Widow to aspire for more than simply a super-spy; she’s vulnerable, clearly shaken by the film’s events, and we discover the odd understanding from opposite ends of the spectrum between herself and the Captain.

When comic books are at their best, the story reflects our society in a specific way, channeling the zeitgeist.  Sure, the artwork is wonderful and occasionally iconic, but it is the topical, relevant, and reflective nature of the stories that people remember most.  This film resembles the best of those comics, in that it brings some rather obvious real-world issues to the forefront.  Think about it- do we expect comic films to touch on the idea of sacrificing freedom for protection, and then have characters figure out that morality on-screen (with respects to “The Dark Knight”)?  What about the manipulation of our personal data into future projections of ability?  The brainwashing and torture of POWs?  See what I mean?  This is no Saturday morning cartoon.

Sure, we do wonder where Hawkeye is during all of this, being a trusted advisor to Fury and all, and where in the world is Thor when you need him?  I must forgive this film those small logistical omissions, for there is an inescapable earnestness that must be acknowledged.  This is a film that rises above the source material, creating a cohesive, smart experience.  These unproven filmmakers, Anthony and Joe Russo, made the heck out of this movie, and I applaud them.  Fans should be salivating that these two directors have been asked back for the third film, and delighted that the Marvel universe seems to have righted itself (for the time being).

Written By:

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 20.59.08

Josh Adams
filmfanperspective.com
@TheFFPerspective
Freelance Contributor

 

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