I’ve been raving about this one for days, so it is time to post my official review.
I LOVED Captain America: The Winter Soldier. This is probably my favorite Marvel movie other than the Avengers. Heck, I’d be hard-pressed to say which film I enjoyed more.
The amazing thing about this movie is that it does so many things so well. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, along with the screenwriters, have jammed this full of everything I look for in a comic-book movie. Heck, it has what I look for in any movie!
From an action movie perspective, the Russos never let things get boring. There are action sequences peppered through the entire film. The audience never has to go more than 10 minutes before you get another set piece where stuff is blowing up or people are getting punched. Best of all, while Captain America definitely dominates the screen time, there are plenty of moments for the excellent supporting cast as well.
And that cast. What a glorious exploration of the Marvel U. Captain America, Black Widow, Falcon, Nick Fury, Maria Hill, the Winter Soldier, Alexander Pierce, and MORE! Brock Rumlow is there for you eagle-eyed comics fans! Batroc shows up in the first few minutes of the film, and he’s wearing purple and orange! This movie exults in the depths of Marvel’s catalogue of characters. Black Widow, Falcon, and Fury are particularly riveting; I found myself almost equally invested in them as in Cap himself.
The villains? If I had to pick a weak point, I guess I’d say the fact that Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce doesn’t pose a physical threat might weaken him a bit. Winter Soldier is the heavy, of course, and he does a fantastic job. When the Soldier has his face mask on? Geez, that is one intimidating bad guy, especially seeing how well he can whip Cappy’s shield right back at him! But for those of us who know the Winter Soldier’s tragic back story, we know he doesn’t REALLY count as a full-on villain, right? And Rumlow is definitely a presence, but he’s there to plant a seed for the future, he’s not a prime time baddy now.
One of the most refreshing things about seeing comic characters on the big screen is seeing how the Hollywood lens can refocus our heroes. Cap’s physical prowess in this film is amazing. I enjoyed seeing him dive out of planes, run rings around his foes, beat the holy heck out of thugs while his shield “pings” away at them. But the scene that blew me away the most was a chase sequence. Watching Cap bull his way through an office building showed off his power and determination perfectly. I found myself cheering for every crash.
There are some folks who have complained about how a square like Cap can’t be a convincing or interesting hero. I say that type of comment says more about the reviewer than it does about Cap. Chris Evans is PERFECT as the sentinel of liberty. He’s honest, courageous, and funny while retaining his edge in combat. Cap doesn’t kill anyone he doesn’t have to, leaving most of his foes breathing but unconscious. Evans’ makes each line of noble dialogue sound eminently reasonable; this is the type of hero you’d WANT to protect you. Keep Man of Steel, this guy is a hero.
That is not to neglect Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow or Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. Black Widow basically co-headlines the film. If you want a more nuanced, conflicted character fighting a murky past, then the Widow is the character for you. Johansson plays her to perfection; she makes ominous comments about not really being anything to anyone and references her dark past, but she’s clearly having fun teaming up with Cap and doing the right thing.
Anthony Mackie’s Falcon? This is a hard part to get right. He’s got to nice enough be instantly accepted as Cap’s new best friend, but still be enough of a hard-ass to get assigned with Cap-level tasks. Mackie does both.
So yeah. The Winter Soldier has everything. Comic book history. Easter eggs for longtime fans. Great characters. Top notch action. Excellent pacing. I’m going to go out and say it; this will probably end up being my favorite film of 2014.