Written by J.T. Johnson
When “Iron Man 3” hit screens last year, it was a decent yet flawed start to Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Thor: The Dark World” was a major improvement in the storytelling department as well as the action. Now, directing brothers Anthony and Joe Russo have bought us all what is arguably the best of the Phase 2 lineup with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”.
The story is a surprisingly complex spy thriller in addition to being a great superhero film. This time, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is questioning his role in S.H.I.E.L.D. and the motives of his superiors such as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Nick has just unveiled Project Insight, a group of three helicarriers linked to satellites that can preemptively strike future threats.
This use of fear over freedom is exactly what is making Steve question his place in the world. While all of this is going on, though, it would appear that someone has hired the mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) to take out not only Nick, but also the Captain and his partner through most of the movie, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). The duo is not alone though as they are also joined by an ex-military officer named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a character with knowledge of an old project called “Falcon”.
Let me start by saying that I am a huge fan of spy flicks and this is one that actually stands up to some of the greats, such as the original “Bourne” trilogy. Steve is character that once had a tangible enemy to fight in World War II, but now his threats come from the shadows and are not as clearly defined even when they step out into the light. Friends become enemies and enemies… Well, they become even bigger enemies.
There is a definite message that comments on real-world events such as the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens and the idea of being able to preemptively strike whenever we damn well please. The storytellers did not bother to hide which side they are on as well. What S.H.I.E.L.D. is doing is wrong and Captain America is going to have to be the one to step in and take charge.
The movie clocks in at two hours and fifteen minutes, but the breakneck speed of the movie makes it feel even shorter. Once the action begins, it never really lets up but that’s okay because the story demands that the characters always be on the move. Whether it’s Steve and the Winter Soldier facing off against one another or if it’s Steve going up against elements found within S.H.I.E.L.D., it never gets boring.
The action sequences in particular are something to behold. When it occurs, the punches are felt and some of them even stand up to those found in “The Avengers”. After watching the movie, you won’t be surprised as to why Marvel has gone ahead and hired the Russo brothers to come back and do “Captain America 3”.
As far as the acting is concerned, Evans has completely eased back into the shoes of Captain America. His leading man status increases even more when considering the actors surrounding him. On one side, Johansson and Mackie give great supporting performances while industry veterans Jackson and Robert Redford could simply walk into the room and instantly turn in classic performances.
If you like a good spy flick, plenty of hard-hitting action and great special-effects, then this should be a movie you need to see. As far as its place in the MCU, it definitely shakes things up a bit and adds a couple of more layers to events leading up to next year’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”.
Oh, and don’t forget to stay for both the mid-credits and post-credits scenes. Especially the mid-credits sequence.