Captain America – The Winter Soldier (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Marvel) Running Time: 136 minutes approx.
I have to confess that I never really have been able to take Captain America seriously not just because of the hokey costume but I’m not a big fan of America’s flag waving. I just can’t help but find a touch of arrogance and conceit in having such a blatant regional “superhero”.
But it would appear that the world doesn’t think like me and good old Cap has been a popular comic book hero since the 1940’s, created as a patriotic morale booster for the US during World War II. When he was given the big screen treatment in 2011 with Chris Evans in the title role it joined the ranks of big budget comic book movies to make Hollywood bean counters happy and so we come to the inevitable sequel.
Set after the events of the Superhero ensemble flick Avengers Assemble, Steve Rogers (Evans) is still trying to adjust to life in the 21st century while continuing his work as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D, with Russian butt kicker Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). When Fury becomes suspicious about Project Insight – in which three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites are set to deliver pre-emptive strikes to any threats – he asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to delay it.
Shortly after Fury is ambushed and badly injured by police and S.H.I.E.L.D operatives, having been declared a traitor, with Rogers and Natasha also being listed as wanted turncoat agents. As they try to uncover what is going on via a USB drive Fury gave Rogers they uncover a web of deceit behind this conspiracy, but a greater danger looms with the presence of a villainous group called HYDRA and their secret weapon – the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
To their credit the writers have tried to create something different for this sequel rather than rely on the usual superhero formula, the modern day setting for this war time protagonist making a wealth of difference between the two films. The political thriller approach to the plot lessens the usual OTT CGI heavy action, which is plentiful yet grounded in reality resulting in more believable (by the genre’s standards) fights, in the process given the characters feasible motives for their duplicitous actions.
Having the antagonists coming effectively from within makes a fresh change from the straight up rich megalomaniac or alien villain who can merely push Cap to his limit before getting his just desserts. However one can’t help but feel that this would be a storyline better served for the entire Avengers crew, creating some interesting individual situations for each member before they reconvene for the traditional climactic punch-up.
Of course Cap isn’t alone but with Fury out of the picture and Natasha just as confused, hope lies with pararescueman Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who has access to a specially designed wing pack resembling those of a large bird of prey. No surprises that by the end of the film Sam is rechristened Falcon, complete with a snazzy costume, by way of introducing a new hero to the fold. Perhaps this is the wrong reaction but I kept having flashbacks to Disney’s 1980’s flop Condorman whenever he took to the air!
By being a more story driven the characters, especially Cap and Natasha, are given a chance to develop. Putting the main character on the outside of the very organisation he works side by side with to fulfil his raison d’etre of protecting the world creates a personal moral quandary for dear old Cap, finding not only his fundamental beliefs being compromised but his loyalty to those he trusted the most, questioning just what kind of world does his live in and was this what he and his peers fought for eighty years earlier?
Similarly Natasha’s past has some light shed on it, revealing her attitude towards loyalty and working for the “right” side which she too has been tormented by but reconciles in her own cold, Russian way. Nick Fury’s history with S.H.I.E.L.D gets an airing too, creating the impression that the organisation was built on the actions of tough, ruthless and uncompromising people – exactly the sort you want protecting the world!
Perhaps by design or maybe an oversight, the titular Winter Solider doesn’t feature that much, making about five appearances in the entire 136 minute runtime. Considering the significance he has to the main cast his presence should have been greater, instead reserved mostly for a few rather brutal action packed scuffles mid way through the film and at the end. A taciturn and unkempt looking chap he doesn’t necessarily scream “dangerous baddie” until you realise that he has a very powerful metal left arm. When in full battle gear though, which includes a face mask, he resembles a refugee from Mortal Kombat.
It seems that nowadays a legendary figure from the acting world is de rigueur for a comic book flick and this time it befalls onetime screen hunk Robert Redford to provide this gravitas. Unfortunately his character is one of the least developed and his turn is as unimpressive as it is sparse. Chris Evans continues to enjoy himself as Captain America – glad someone is – while Scarlett Johansson appears to have lost all the charisma and personality she displayed through her voice only performance in Her. Samuel L. Jackson is his usual bad ass self joined by a second black face in Anthony Mackie as Sam/Falcon, who appears, to this writer, like a covert comedy sidekick.
I wish I could put my finger on it but Marvel’s output never seems to excite me in the same way it has others and unfortunately Captain America – The Winter Soldier doesn’t reverse that trend. It isn’t necessarily a bad film but its earnest attempt in trying something different with the genre sees three fertile stories crammed into one film with no firm decision made as to which one should take precedence.
A serviceable but sadly not that outstanding comic book romp.
DTS-HD MA 7.1 English
Dolby Digital 5.1 Hindi, Tamil, Telegu
Dolby 2.0 Audio Description English
English, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish Subtitles
Commentary with Directors Anthony & Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Deleted & Extended Scenes
On The Front Line – An Inside Look At Captain America’s Battlegrounds
On Set With Anthony Mackie – Cut The Check!
Steve Rogers’ Notebook
Rating – ***
Man In Black