Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – Review

3 Stars

Marvel studio’s latest product is the anticipated sequel to Captain America. This second installment is darker and more topical than its predecessor. The obvious cinematic reference points are 1970s political thrillers like The Parallax View and 3 Days of the Condor. These are fine films and worthy of inspiration but in molding itself to that form, the gee-whiz innocence and matinee-idol quality has been lost in translation. That’s not a knock on the quality of the movie, but a letdown for this viewer, who embraced the art-deco post WWII production design and the goofy wholesomeness of that first film.

Staying with the melancholy tone set by Marvel’s own Iron Man 3, the film is too serious for its own good. Steve Rodgers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) is suffering through PTSD, and questions his allegiance to the cause. Meanwhile S.H.E.I.L.D. is under scrutiny for its unconventional and illegal means of intelligence gathering. Rodgers isn’t pleased to find that he has been used as a pawn in a power play between Nic Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and senior official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). The developing relationship between Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is threatened by trust issues and questions over loyalty.

Lacking the aid of Fury, who is sidelined from a barely survived ambush, Rodgers and Romanoff recruit Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). A USAF pararescueman, Wilson is equally brave and powered by his unique “Falcon” wingpack. The three set out to uncover the identity of a double agent in the agency and must battle the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a former friend of Rodgers, who was captured and experimented on by Hydra during WWII.

The glue to the series and this character specifically is Chris Evans, his earnest professionalism and eagerness to please are reminiscent of Christopher Reeves’ portrayal of Superman. Featuring the largest chunk of screen-time for both Nic Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow since The Avengers, this Captain America entry starts to feel like the intermediate episode between that picture and its forthcoming follow-up.

Captain America 2: The Winter Solider is a mixed bag, I compliment it’s slickness and attention to detail, but the self-important tone and bloated length nearly cripple the film. I’m siding with a positive recommendation due to the conviction of the actors portraying these comic-book characters, and for being smarter than the dim-witted Thor: The Dark World. Lets hope the third feature will lighten-up and get back to the square-jawed action of its predecessor.

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Stars: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson

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