BY JOSH BURY
After the release of The Avengers, the bar for Marvel films has been set considerably higher. Newer entries such as Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man 3, while not terrible, have failed to meet that film’s standard.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier changes that.
Chris Evans reprises his role as Steve Rogers/Captain America, who is finally starting to look comfortable in the 21st century. Humourous references to his former status as a “man out of time” are used sparingly but effectively by fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and newcomer Falcon (Anthony Mackie).
As for the supporting cast, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) remains pragmatic and cantankerous as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., while Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is underutilized and is seen on-screen about as often as she was in The Avengers, which means not much. Robert Redford is a pleasant surprise as Fury’s mentor, Alexander Pierce.
Much of the film’s plot has been intentionally kept out of the trailers and promotional material, the better to preserve some of the plot’s twists. And twist it does, whereby Cap finds himself out of his element as he struggles to end a scheme that threatens the lives of millions across the globe while moving inevitably toward a conflict with the titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
The real strength of the film is that it puts Cap in a position of weakness, like many of his compelling comic stories do. Evans continues to pull off the all-American hero bit, but his patriotism sure looks a lot different in this century’s atmosphere of surveillance, espionage and control.
“I thought the punishment usually comes after the crime,” quips Rogers.
This isn’t the kind of war that he was trained to fight, making his co-operation with Black Widow and Falcon all the more crucial.
Additionally, Black Widow is given far more screen time, which better demonstrates the fact that she is an extremely dangerous, emotionally complicated hero. Unlike The Avengers, where she seemed out of place and viewers could be forgiven for seeing her as more of a tagalong, Johansson plays up the character’s outward confidence and internal struggles.
As the plot puts Cap in a position of weakness, it simultaneously makes her look comfortable. Espionage and betrayal are not unknown to her.
But maybe the best part of the film is how it blends solid writing, good special effects and some above-average performances with a plot that keeps the audience guessing throughout.
I give this movie four and a half out of five stars.