With Captain American : Civil War now in cinemas in the UK I thought it was a perfect time to repost one of my 'lost' reviews- in this case the previous Captain America movie The Winter Soldier, that was previously published on a now defunct site back in April 2014.
The first Avenger is back in the latest release from Marvel studios, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now working for SHIELD, Cap continues to struggle with finding himself a man out of his own time. He's got much bigger concerns though, namely the titular assassin, a mysterious figure who has terrorised America and her allies since the Cold War.
The first Captain America film made the most of it's period setting to distinguish it from the rest of the Marvel flicks. It gave it an enjoyably old-school atmosphere, feeling like a classic boy's-own-adventure type yarn. With the end of the movie (spoilers) bringing him into the present day any sequel was always going to have to take a somewhat different approach. With Winter Soldier they decided to go down the spy thriller route, and the end result somewhat resembles a Bond movie with Super-powers (with a dash of Bourne for good measure). Much as every Bond film starts with a pre-credits action scene, Winter Soldier kicks off with a thrilling first-reel action sequence involving a rescue mission on a ship hijacked by pirates. The action is exciting and well choreographed throughout, keeping up the high standard seen in most Marvel productions to date. A lot of the action is surprisingly down-to-earth too, with plenty of old fashioned hand-to-hand combat and gunplay inbetween the comic-book super-soldier smackdowns. That's not to say there's not plenty of the completely fantasy-based stuff in the mix too, but this is certainly closer to the likes of Iron Man 3 than The Thor movies. The action is expertly mounted, and there's much less of a reliance on CGI than in many of it's predecessors.
Chris Evans is completely home in the lead role by now, portraying the boy-scout role convincingly, without being bland. This is as much a SHIELD movie as a Captain America movie though, and several familiar faces take much meatier roles than we've seen them in before. Samuel L Jackson is always reliably excellent as Nick Fury, but here for the first time he's more of an actual character than a leather jacket and an eye-patch. Scarlett Johanson's Black Widow plays her biggest part to date, essentially playing the second lead. She's believably bad-ass and more than hold her own against the big guy himself, and her playful interplay with Evans is a lot of fun. Perhaps inevitably this means that the newcomers have less to do, with Emily VanCamp getting a particularly insubstantial role. Robert Redford is reliably solid as a SHIELD big-shot, but doesn't stand out as especially memorable.
Marvel movies have generally struggled to create memorable villains- Loki aside- and it's no different here. The Winter Soldier himself has little to make him stand out, and the big revelation about his identity doesn’t really have the emotional wallop it's intended to.
Any complaints are relatively minor though, and when you're actually watching it, you'll be too entertained to care. There's never a dull moment and it grips from the off. It delivers everything that you've come to expect from a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, while adding a few surprises along the way. The character of Captain America always has the potential to lend itself to flag-waving jingoistic nonsense that won't play well outside the States, but they've ably sidestepped it here. The Winter Soldier might not quite manage to reach the gold standard for Marvel movies that is The Avengers but it's not all that far off. An unabashedly fun time at the movies.
+Great action, humour and dramatic twists and turns
-Weak villains and not much for the new characters to do