Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, is slowly adjusting to his new reality of modern day Ameerica. Like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, he’s slightly shellshocked from what happened in New York during The Avengers. Despite seeking a quiet life (he’s making a list of things he’s missed out on, including The Beatles), he’s routinely called up by SHIELD Director, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), to perform clean up operations. When a hit is taken out on a member of SHIELD, it sparks off a series of events that leads Rogers and skilled assassin, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), down a path filled with intrigue and conspiracy. Albeit a conspiracy where people can punch through walls, which presumably Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward didn’t do during Watergate. But who is the mysterious Winter Soldier? How is he connected to Captain America? And why does he look like James Franco’s Green Goblin? Only one of those questions will be answered in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
This is the latest episode in the Marvel movie universe. And we’re not using the term ‘episode’ lightly here either. Whilst each film stands on it’s own quite well, the crisscrossing of characters from each franchise and passing references to other adventures makes it all feel like it’s part of the continuing narrative in a soap opera. One day, it’s probably going to get a bit too much. Like the Saw franchise, there’s a real danger of alienating a potential audience by making them have to see all the movies to make sense of just one. However, that day is yet to come, and Winter Soldier manages to keep everything balanced.
In fact, this is all beginning to look a bit effortless now. Sticking with the soap opera analogy, we are very much mid-season and everyone is clearly comfortable in their respective roles. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Captain America; as Evans leaps around like a parkour addict on speed, whilst staring diligently into the middle distance. He’s even given some emotions like a real boy, particularly in a tear inducing scene that sees the Cap paying a visit to an old friend from back in the day. Progress has most certainly been made with regards to the Black Widow. Having started off as a thing Tony Stark wanted to put his willy in during Iron Man 2, the character was given a personality in The Avengers which is fleshed out further here. Whilst a will-they-won’t-they idea of romance between Widow and the Cap fails to be believable, the sparring between the two certainly gives the film some of it’s best moments; Black Widow trying to set Rogers up with someone whilst interrogating a suspect is particularly playful and well-timed.
One of the more surprising additions to the Marvel stable is Robert Redford as Fury’s superior at SHIELD, Alexander Pierce, provides the film with some meaty thespian chops. A nod to 70s movies the film emulates, it’s always pleasant to see an actor of Redford’s calibre treat the script with some actual gravitas, rather than phoning it in waiting for the ink to dry on the cheque.
It’s Anthony Mackie and Emily VanCamp who who get the pooiest end of the stick. Mackie as Steve Roger’s new friend, Sam Wilson and VanCamp as Sharon Carter. Neither are given much to do with Mackie’s climatic fight scene weirdly edited so that we only get to see the aftermath and VanCamp basically pouting. Her character is almost the antithesis of Black Widow.
That said, some ropey CGI aside, Winter Soldier contains some exhilarating chases and bone crunching fight scenes. It’s no real surprise that the directors, Anthony and Joe Russo have already been called in for the threequel. If it manages to exceed or even just maintain the momentum of Winter Soldier than we will be very happy indeed