“The most gritty, stand alone and imaginative of Marvel’s run of recent sequels”
Morally astute, clean-cut and armed with his signature shield, Steve Rogers’ alter ego Captain America is given his own second chapter in the ever-growing Marvel cinematic Universe. Whilst 2011’s first film The First Avenger did a thumbs up job of setting out the origin of our war-torn stars and stripes hero, we now have his story firmly set up to date in amongst the post-Avengers fall out of Marvel’s Phase Two and gives our Captain the chance to take centre stage once again. He may not have the whiz of Iron Man or the godly powers of Thor, but we do get treated to action, explosions and twists in abundance.
Adjusting to modern life is put on hold when the Captain (played by Chris Evans) discovers a secret high up in the ranks of SHIELD that may threaten to bring chaos to the world and questions the Captain’s safety and security from his own employers. But as his investigation deepens, with only Agent Romanov (played by Scarlett Johansson) as his closest trustee, he slowly uncovers a secret plot bigger and wider than anyone expected.
One foot firmly in the super hero genre, with the other set even firmer in a political conspiracy thriller. Switching genre rather than scale for sequels always work well and Marvel have taken the decision to utilise the brute force and military sense of its SHIELD team hierarchy to what feels like a conspiracy thriller that harks back to early 70’s cinema. Even with the massive coup of bringing a great like Robert Redford to the Marvel vision, playing senior figure Alexander Pierce of Shield’s high up bureaucracy, it’s hard not to be reminded of All The President’s Men and even films like Chinatown that unravel long hidden secrets.
But this is still primarily a Marvel film, and that means bringing out the extravagant hardware, the one liners, the red, white and blue uniform and separating themselves off into one corner of their world they’ve so far created. With its gun fights, car chases and combative one-on-one fights, this attempts to set our hero into a hard-hitting style role, perfect for any fan of the modern Bond and Bourne style of action movie. Letting the action beat along rhythmically and feeling the cuts and bruises are being very much taken along the way. Even having a defence signature weapon doesn’t stop the action being very front foot and going constantly on the offence that makes for brilliantly almost martial arts style action.
Even those who may think his lack of powers undermine his role, there’s not doubt this feels a complete standalone Captain America roller coaster that utilises every asset, every supporting character, every bullet to its full potential, including our star himself. There may not be a solid love relationship as with Pepper Potts or Jane Foster, but both Evans and Johansson play off brilliantly as a team, aswell as Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) getting more deserved screen time, and Anthony Mackie as high-flying Falcon introduced to great effect. Even the film’s quieter moments are greatly played and allows our hero to come to terms with living in a modern world and not being able to relive the days of the past anymore.
If there is to be a drawback, it’s in our main advisory of The Winter Soldier himself. He can go toe-to-toe with menace and danger in his eyes but as a character and his origin into the story, he does feel slightly predictable and one-dimensional. Even with the pulsating pace of the film carrying forward, it does become somewhat over long in its climatic conclusion, something Marvel know so well. But with its intrigue and mystery set in the right place, with many characters given their time in the spotlight, it easily surpasses the first film and certifies even comic book films can tackle themes of political corruption and deceit with all the super hero action thrown in.
Think of it as “Tinker, Tailor, Winter Soldier, Spy”. It feels the most gritty, stand alone and imaginative of Marvel’s run of recent sequels, with Evans really coming into his own as Cap.