Reviewed by GREG KING
Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo
Stars: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson, Sebastian STan, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily Van Camp, Hayley Atwell, Alan Dale, Callan Mulvey, Toby Jones, Jenny Agutter, Stan Lee, Garry Shandling, Georges St-Pierre.
The character of Captain America was created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and first appeared in
comic book form in 1941, during WWII. He was a patriotic character, a morally upright character
with a strong sense of right and justice, but his alter ego Steve Rogers was a pouny weakling.
Thanks to an experimental serum he was transformed, and gained strength and endurance.
Transformed into a superfit fighting machine, he was often depicted fighting against the Nazis. But
following the war he fell out of favour and disappeared.
In 1964 the character was resurrected. He was discovered in a state of suspended animation,
frozen inside an iceberg, and was awakened to join forces with the team of superheroes known as
The Avengers. Although he had no superpowers as such he was given extra strength and agility,
and his only weapon was an indestructible shield. The first Captain America movie in 2011 gave
us much of the backstory for the character.
As a stand alone hero Captain America is a bit bland, with his undisputed patriotism and an
almost naive world view, although his struggle to adjust to the frightening brave new world of the
21st century adds a poignant note. Compared to the sarcastic humour of Iron Man he is also fairly
humourless. However, as part of the Avengers ensemble he was a good fit. The Avengers movie
itself grossed over $1 billion worldwide, and there are more installments of their adventures on the
Meanwhile we get this sequel to Captain America, which takes up the story sometime after The
Avengers, and sees Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) still trying to adjust to the unfamiliar world of the
21st century. He undertakes missions for SHIELD, the covert superhero agency that protects
America from threats, both human and alien. When the film opens Rogers leads a rescue mission
to retake a ship that has been captured by pirates. But the aftermath of that mission exposes and
even more deadly and dangerous threat.
SHIELD is under threat from a mysterious enemy they attack Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson,
reprising his role) and they try to destroy the organisation’s reputation by declaring Captain
America a traitor. There is also the indestructible assassin known as the Winter Soldier, a relic of
the Cold War, who is also a figure from Rogers’ past. But the biggest threat comes from a covert
military conspiracy to launch a massive preemptive strike against America’s potential enemies
using hi-tech airborne “helicarriers”, bristling with destructive firepower. Are they genuine
protection against future threats or do they represent something more sinister?
Cut off from his usual support network, Captain America has to rely on the agile, lethal and
enigmatic assassin Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow), and a new ally in Sam Wilson (aka
Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie) to try and clear his name, and expose the truth. Given that
SHIELD is under threat it’s surprising that other Avengers didn’t rush to the rescue.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is based on the comic book story line created by Ed
Brubaker, and it ventures into the darker realm of geopolitics and the shadowy world of power
politics and conspiracy theories, unfamiliar territory for the superhero genre. But script writers
Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are no strangers to the Marvel universe, having written
the first Captain America movie as well as the Thor sequel, and they inject proceedings with some
knowing injokes and ironic references. The film also manages to work in themes of friendship,
loyalty, trust, the past, surveillance and the abuse of power.
Scarlett Johansson’s sexy, seductive presence as Black Widow, whose loyalties are often
uncertain, tempers the overdose of testosterone on display here. Samuel L Jackson brings his
usually cool and taciturn presence to the role of Fury, who is given a bit more to do this time
around. Mackie brings a welcome touch of humour to proceedings, and hopefully its not too lone
before Falcon pops up again, either in another sequel or his own movie. The socalled titular
winter soldier (played by Sebastian Stan) is a bionic superwarrior and someone from Rogers’
past, which adds a personal aspect to the action. But in the scheme of the Marvel universe, he is
something of a dull and onedimensional villain.
Cast largely against type Robert Redford makes a rare appearance in a special effects heavy
blockbuster, but he brings gravity and a sense of authority to his role as Alexander Pierce, a
member of the World Security Council and Fury’s immediate boss. His presence here also brings
to mind many of those paranoid conspiracy theory thrillers of the 70s like Three Days Of The
Marvel Studios have taken a calculated risk in handing over the reins of this multimillion dollar
special effects driven comic book fantasy to Joe and Anthony Russo, a pair of directors better
known for their work on television series like Arrested Development and Community and a couple
of off beat comedy films in Welcome To Collinwood and You, Me And Dupree.
Unlike other films in the Marvel universe though, the Russo brothers eschewed the use of CGI
effects, preferring to keep the action as real as possible. The action is at times quite brutal. There
is a great car chase sequence, and a couple of the early action scenes are quite well done. But
some of the key action sequences, particularly at the very busy climax, are a bit cluttered, and the
overuse of shaky hand held cameras is a bit overwhelming and distracting. Overall, the Russos
handling of the material lacks the slick visual style and panache of a J J Abrams or Joss Whedon.
With the Thor, Iron Man, X-Men and Spiderman franchises kicking superhero butt, the Marvel
cinematic universe is offering up some of the best action films around. They peaked with star
studded The Avengers, which set the bar high for any film that followed. Captain America: The
Winter Soldier is not quite up to that standard, but it confidently stakes its claim as one of the
better of the Marvel superhero films to date. And little teasers littered throughout the final credits
hint at more great action to come.