Release Date: 26th March 2014
Running Time: 136 minutes
Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford
Another year, another installation in the Marvel saga. With Avengers: Age of Ultron set to conquer cinemas in May next year, we first have to squeeze in The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, which is out later in the year. It feels like a slight change in tempo after the mega grossing sequels to Iron Man and Thor last year: Captain America has arguably been the least entertaining of the three superheroes, and unless you read comics you’re unlikely to be familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy. So can Cap compete with the big guys in his latest adventure?
The set-up itself is simple enough: Cap is still working with SHIELD, when it quickly becomes apparent that things have taken a turn for the sinister, forcing him and his Avenger’s pals Nick Fury and Black Widow to go on the lam. Taking stock after the chaos of The Avengers, Cap finally has time to adjust to modern life after missing out on the latter half of the 20th Century, however it’s clear that coming to terms with his past is on-going struggle. The plot thickens, but to reveal any more would spoil the many twists and turns The Winter Soldier has to offer.
The Winter Soldier is the most serious movie of the bunch; the quick witted Tony Stark and stupendously camp Thor are no-where to be seen in a world where political corruption is the biggest enemy. This allows Cap to come into his own; in The First Avenger he was struggling to find his feet and in The Avengers he was the butt of all the jokes, but now he is a force to be reckoned with. He is the most human of the bunch both emotionally and physically and it really shows here, the fight scenes feeling incredibly visceral as he beats guys down with his supreme physical strength. There are moments that are genuinely heartbreaking too; the tragedy of leaving behind his previous life is a theme which keeps resurfacing, and The Winter Soldier brings that to the forefront in a way he must face dead on. This is a sign of the franchise maturing, and it has come at exactly the right time to keep things fresh: it seems that Marvel really know what they’re doing.
The rest of the characters step up a gear too: Nick Fury has a lot more to do than usual, and as a consequence we see him as a fully formed character and not merely a figurehead. Black Widow is given her time to shine, and Johansson and Evans have a great chemistry together. Newcomers to the franchise Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford have fun too, but it’s Sebastian Stan as the titular Winter Soldier that really shines; his cold brutality is reminiscent of the Terminator, yet it’s the flashes of humanity that make him truly memorable.
It doesn’t always work: there are times when the plot seems a tad too silly for how po-faced it is at times. The bad guy’s plot is one step away from being evil for evil’s sake, which is disappointing, but luckily you’ll be kept entertained enough to not notice too much. And The Winter Soldier is nothing if not entertaining; carefully crafted set pieces follow one after another at quite a pace, although if you’re going to see it, give the 3D a miss. Solidly entertaining and a step forward for the franchise in terms of maturity, Marvel continue to set the bench mark for quality blockbusters.