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Should I Watch..? Captain America: The Winter Soldier
What's the big deal?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an action superhero thriller film released in 2014 and is the second solo film for the Marvel character of the same name. It is the third film in Phase Two of Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU), a single continuity running between all previous and future productions by Marvel Studios. Like its predecessor Captain America: The First Avenger (1), it features Chris Evans returning as Steve Rogers, a WW2 infantryman turned into a 'super soldier' by use of a serum, who now works for SHIELD in the present day. Like most Marvel films, it was a critical and financial success and the film is heavily influenced by conspiracy fiction films from the 70's like Three Days Of The Condor (2) which, coincidentally, also stared Robert Redford. The film also introduces a new hero in the form of Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, and also co-stars Scarlett Johannson, Sebastian Stan and Samuel L Jackson.
What's it about?
Two years after the events shown in Avengers Assemble (3), Steve Rogers is now slowly adjusting to life in the 21st century while working with espionage agency SHIELD under director Nick Fury. During a mission alongside Natasha Romanoff, Rogers discovers that she has a hidden agenda of her own, a secret assignment given to her by Fury. Confronting the director back at SHIELD HQ, Rogers is given access to Project Insight - a secret plan to build three state-of-the-art Heli Carriers to assess and eliminate all threats to SHIELD in a matter of moments. Disgusted, Rogers walks away and wants no part of it.
Shortly after, Nick Fury is attacked by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Now realising that SHIELD has been compromised, Fury hands Rogers and Romanoff encrypted data that SHIELD's enemies would love to have. Asked by Security Council member Alexander Pierce to hand the data over, Rogers escapes and goes on the run and hunt down the Winter Soldier himself. But who exactly can he trust and what price must be paid for freedom?
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Samuel L Jackson
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Sam Wilson / Falcon
Agent Maria Hill
Agent Jasper Sitwell
Sharon Carter / Agent 13
Anthony & James Russo
Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely *
Release Date (UK)
26th March, 2014
Action, Superhero, Thriller
Academy Award Nomination
Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
Just as Avengers Assemble saw upheaval in the MCU, so too does Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Assuming that you don't watch Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD on TV then the truth behind the conspiracy is a stunning one and one which will have ramifications for most MCU films from here on out. Such dramatic implications lifts this far beyond a simple action film and gives the movie a level of tension and intrigue that Thor: The Dark World (4) can only dream of. It also gives Evans much more to do than simply bashing stuff with his shield and he excels as Rogers, finally convincing us that he is a man from another time and struggling to understand today's world.
Newcomer Mackie makes a welcome addition to the MCU, giving it its first proper black superhero and about time too. Johansson is always a joy to watch and like Evans, she has to rely on more than fancy martial arts this time as well. Her and Evans make a good team and one I'd like to see more of in future, however unlikely that may seem. The action is also outstanding, probably the best that Marvel has so far given us. It's reminiscent of The Bourne Identity (5) at times which is not a bad film to replicate. It's quick, brutal and extremely satisfying for action fans like me.
- Johansson had the idea for Romanoff to wear a necklace with an arrow on it, in reference to her teammate and occasional lover Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye.
- When Robert Redford opens his fridge, a bottle of Newman's Own Sauce is visible on the shelf, in reference to his good friend and Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (6) co-star Paul Newman.
- This film reunites Scarlett Johansson and Robert Redford for the first time since 1998's The Horse Whisperer (7).
What's not to like?
There are one or two things I would have addressed, however. Firstly, why go to all that trouble of the big reveal about the Winter Soldier when the game is given up so easily? Even IMDb lists the cast member playing the assassin (a temptation I resisted) and not all of us are Marvel geeks. We do like a surprise every now and again so I feel Marvel have mishandled that one.
There is also precious little humour in it. Apart from the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, I can't recall a single light moment from the movie although I'm sure they are in there somewhere. This is a much darker proposition than the first in the series which is decidedly comic book in tone. This film has none of the lightness we saw in the first film and I feel that's a shame. And as blasphemous as it may be to criticise a Hollywood legend but Redford's role as the slimy Pierce didn't seem right to me. A bit more disguising of the truth was necessary, I reckon, unless Marvel were (God forbid!) trying to dumb down the plot.
Should I watch it?
If you wish to carry on with the MCU experience then this is an essential watch. It's gripping from the start, exciting and at times, breath-taking to watch. I just wish that it wouldn't make it so easy to tell what was going to happen. Remember the voice-over from Blade Runner (8) ruining things at the studio's insistence? The same thing happened here - Marvel gave the game away too easily and I would have hoped that they could trust us to figure it out for ourselves. But still an excellent addition to their already bulging back catalogue.
Great For: people who miss The X-Files, the MCU in general, action fans
Not So Great For: people who enjoyed the first Captain America movie, people who watch Agents Of SHIELD
What else should I watch?
Continuing the next phase of the MCU's Phase Two is Guardians Of The Galaxy (9), an intergalactic space opera with its tongue firmly in cheek. It couldn't be any more different to this if it tried but it is an absolute blast of fun and highly recommended.
The first Captain America was a much lighter affair in tone, set during an alternative WW2 against maniacal nemesis the Red Skull. It had a fine performance from Hugo Weaving as the baddie, just as visceral action scenes and employed a comic touch that was used to good effect. The bloated third film - Captain America: Civil War (10) - is an all-out slug-fest between two feuding groups of superheroes with barely a villain in sight. But what it lacks in story and originality, it makes up for in surprises and entertainment. Really, it depends which style of Cap you prefer and for me, his first outing just about takes the honours.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox