I do not know what it is about films in the Marvel franchise, but more than often, they can manage to exceed our already high expectations of their films. Just when you thought that "The Avengers" was already a pinnacle of superhero action film perfection, along comes another one that challenges that position.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is more than just an excellent action-packed superhero film. Aside from those big fist fights, gun fights, car chases, it also has piracy on the high seas and gigantic aircraft of mass destruction to add to the mayhem. All of these action scenes were executed perfectly - the stunts, the CG effects, the editing, the set-ups -- no loose ends. Those who found the sound levels of "The Avengers" too much would find the quality of sound here just right. The set design of the glass Triskelion building, headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D., is amazing.
The directors Anthony and Joe Russo hit all the right notes in their execution of a complex film. We do not feel the two-hour plus running time pass us by.
Chris Evans gets more and more comfortable in playing this good-natured All-American hero. His physical aptitude is of no question in all those high-energy action scenes. More than just his chiseled face and physique though, he also proves he has the acting chops for those unexpectedly emotional dramatic scenes in the film. There was a charming one set in a museum, and another one in a hospital bedside, featuring a surprise guest cameo.
Scarlett Johansson is bad-ass and kick-ass as the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff. She had a lot more complex stunts to do here over those that wowed us in "The Avengers." We also get to know Natasha a little better -- her background, her work ethic, her skills -- but just enough to whet our interest even more about her mysterious character.
Samuel L Jackson reprises his recurrent role as Nick Fury. Again, we get to see Nick Fury more in action here as ever. There was a particularly exciting sequence where Nick's car was ambushed in the middle of city traffic that was jaw-dropping in its execution.
It was really good to see Robert Redford back in a big role in a mainstream film. He plays Secretary Alexander Price who oversaw S.H.I.E.L.D. for the US government. Redford still had that cool and collected touch of class that made him a big box-office star in the early 1970s.
There will be new characters introduced. Anthony Mackie gets to be ex-soldier Sam Wilson, who will later don those awesome metal wings as Falcon. The beautiful Emily VanCamp (of TV's "Revenge") is first introduced to us as shy nurse and Steve's next door neighbor, Sharon Carter, but she will also have surprises up her sleeve later. Hope to see more of these two characters in future CA -- or even Avengers -- films.
The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely was able to smoothly tell us about the Cap and the people he loved, along with the history of S.H.I.E.L.D., the history of HYDRA, the history of Black Widow, the history of the Falcon, all on top of a solid politically-charged thriller of a main story about a deadly S.H.I.E.L.D. project called Operation Insight. Again, all these multi-layered details were all tucked in neatly, with no significant plot holes to ponder about.
There are two extra scenes in the end credits. One will be shown midway after the main names (again with great-looking artwork!), featuring Loki's scepter and two new beings with powers. This promises an interesting story line for a future film. Another shorter extra scene will be shown at the very end of all the smaller print credits.
I am not really sure if there is still any surprise about the identity of The Winter Soldier. If I mention who plays him, you will already know. So I will just leave that for you to find out when you watch this film. I am sure you will go watch this. 10/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."