As one of the most eagerly anticipated and ubiquitously praised films of the spring season by both fans and critics alike, my expectations for the new Captain America movie were understandably high. Yet despite what may have seemed like lofty and unrealistic aspirations for this film, directors Anthony and Joe Russo and their entire creative team wholeheartedly deliver on that projected hype – arguably exceeding it.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a thoroughly enjoyable two-and-a-half hour ride that captures your interest and attention from the get-go and holds them tightly until the very end; proving to be not only one of the strongest contributions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date but also an excellent work of cinematic artistry in its own regard.
As expected, the story revolves around the actions of the titular character Steve Rogers and his involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D., the peacekeeping organization responsible for overseeing all superhero-related business. Ultimately, the plot's action boils down to Rogers striking out on his own adventure accompanied by a select few and unearthing some of the dark secrets of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s past all the while going toe-to-toe with one of the most dangerous adversaries introduced thus far: the Winter Soldier.
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson all reprise their roles from the series and do a pretty decent job expanding each of their character’s depth and motivations, respectively. The newcomers to the film do an impressive job holding their own as memorable characters in their own right, from Anthony Mackie’s seamless transition into the role of Rogers’ loyal friend and sidekick of sorts to Robert Redford’s portrayal of S.H.I.E.L.D. executive Alexander Pierce, a role akin to Iron Man 2’s Justin Hammer but with a bit more gravitas.
Though chronologically speaking, the film takes place not long after the events of The Avengers, this sequel also directly ties into its original predecessor, Captain America: The First Avenger. It does a pretty impressive job incorporating fundamental aspects from both; viewers who have kept up-to-date on the franchise are sure to appreciate the occasional appearance of a familiar face or two alongside scattered references to the established Marvel mythos.
Another significantly positive aspect of the film is its accessibility. This is arguably Marvel’s most accessible film to date and that's largely attributed to the way it handles itself. Some of the biggest issues with past Marvel features have been a reliance on the source material to drive the story along with an overall lack of seriousness or dramatic tension. And that's part of what makes this film so brilliant. The Russos very clearly take this story in their own direction and make it their own. They imbue it with such a driving sense of momentum that you’ll likely find yourself on the edge of your seat for the majority the film.
With a notably darker tone from its other Marvel counterparts, exceptionally well-choreographed fight scenes, explosive action sequences and just the right amount of clever comic relief, this film manages to cover its bases quite well.
Though it clearly follows the standard action film formula (especially in terms of plot structure), it utilizes these cinematic conventions so expertly that it could easily be described as an art. There are a sufficient amount of unexpected twists that are consistently able to keep the story fresh and interesting.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is by far one of the best movies I have seen in a while. Regardless of your previous experience with Marvel features or any preconceived notions you may have about superhero movies, I implore you to go out and see this film while it’s still in theaters. I solemnly swear that you’ll be kicking yourself in the rear if you miss an opportunity to see a gem like this in its proper form.