Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Directors: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Emily VanCamp

Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, (concept and story) Ed Brubaker, (based on the comic book) Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Running Time: 136 mins

Cert: 12A

Release date: 26th March 2014

I’m going to be honest with you now. Captain America: The First Avenger was a good film but sadly, instantly forgettable. It didn’t have the same staying power as Iron Man or Thor and in the light of day since The Avengers, it has to be said, it was the weakest of the series leading up to that mighty blockbuster. It lacked the sparkle, the wit, the story-line. So going into Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I was hoping upon hope that it this sequel would have upped its game. I can now report that it has, in a huge, enormous (very big) way. I would even go so far to say it is the best of the post-Avengers movies.

Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) now lives in the modern age and is a fully paid-up member of S.H.I.E.L.D. Things are not right. After a mission in which he is sent to save hostages from a ship, only to discover Natasha Romanoff (The Black Widow) downloading information from the ship’s main computer, the Captain feels he is being kept in the dark and doesn’t know who to trust, especially when he finds out that his boss, Nick Fury, was the one who gave Natasha the orders.

Then S.H.I.E.L.D comes under attack, Rogers and Romanoff are on the run and something dark has fallen over the once safe world that they both lived in. Desperate to find answers, Rogers has to deal with his trust issues while coping with a face from the past and a killing machine that wants them dead.

I am being very careful not to give too much of the plot away because part of the joy of this cracking sequel is the surprises that are buried within. While it still might not have the throw-away humour of those previous other superhero films, what it does have is some superb action set pieces and, delight upon delight, a dark conspiracy thriller lurking within.

Not a minute of film is wasted and at 136 mins that’s quite a lot of film but thankfully, directors Anthony and Joe Russo (whose previous credits include episodes of the excellent Community and the awful You, Me and Dupree) keep everything moving at a tremendous pace, yet managing to time to develop characters and relationships, inject emotion and even add a few new faces to the package.

So we get a story-line deep-rooted in the 70s, when conspiracy thrillers were everywhere and while this may not be as complex as Three Days Of The Condor or The Parallax View, it’s nice to see that Marvel aren’t afraid to try something different. It would be so easy to give us another run-of-the-mill action film with big explosions and fight scenes and we would have probably accepted it and waited for the next Avenger film. Instead we have double crosses and who-do-you-trust moments with some really neat twists and turns along the way. So we know who the baddie is from the very beginning but there’s still plenty of other treats in store.

Apart from that, the set pieces and action scenes are excellently handled, with car chases and shoot-out galore to keep the adrenalin fans happy and while the finale is massively over-the-top, it doesn’t spoil the rest of the film (unlike Thor: The Dark World, in which the final fight seem to go on forever).

Everyone seems very comfortable in their roles now. Chris Evans looks like he sleeps in his suit, he knows his character that well and it’s nice to see Scarlet Johannson given a bigger bite of the cherry this time, as the acrobatic Natasha. Samuel L. Jackson is still as cool as ever as Nick Fury and newcomer to the series Anthony Mackie as a former soldier who joins forces with Captain America in the form of The Falcon, is a nice inclusion.

Then there’s the legend that is Robert Redford, who seems to be doing very little and yet he commands the screen every time he appears, as head honcho Alexander Pierce. It’s proof (if proof be needed) that he still has the screen presence that is hard to teach these young upstarts. After his superb performance in All Is Lost, it’s nice to see him back on the screen so soon and hope we see a lot more of him in the future.

As for the Winter Soldier? I really don’t want to talk about him or else I will give away a massive plot spoiler. And I don’t want to do that.

This is the final film before we hit the big one next year next year with The Avengers: The Age Of Ultron, and as a forerunner, there’s not better way to wet our appetite. And as fans of the series will know, do not leave until after the credits are over. We get two delicious treats, one especially for the second Avengers film that will have the fanboys wetting themselves (and it’s directed by Joss Whedon).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivers in a big way. It’s brash, explosive, intriguing and massively surprising and if this is the start of the Summer season of blockbusters, if all films are like this, then it’s going to be a spectacular Summer indeed.

4/5

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