Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

This film is wonderful. For some, this is the masterpiece of MCU. They managed to make a film that was grounded in some level of reality, with practical spectacle with a superhero twist. But that reality isn’t tied to a grimness – it is still a fun ride, and the world you want to visit. And finally, some consequences, as SHIELD is torn apart.

Perhaps the strength of what the Russo brothers do actually comes down to what they don’t do. There is not one joke about purple pants, or some cheap gag to fan boys. Crashing helicarriers aside, a lot of the action is practical. No CGI hordes here. There’s no worldwide stakes – but we are on the edge of our seats anyway. There’s a lot of subdued performances as well.

Chris Evans. Who’d have thought the hammy jerk from Fantastic Four could pull of Captain America at all. Here, he owns the role with gravitas. And the Russos come up with so many great moments that he suddenly becomes a favourite. From using his shield to run top speed through corridors, to how to fall from a great height and live.

Nick Fury finally gets an action scene. Black Widow also gets more to do than ever before. If there’s an MVP, it’s Anthony Mackie‘s Falcon. He’s just a cool guy – fun, clever, duty bound, and just all round good. Why isn’t there more clamouring for him to get his own film? And Robert Redford is still as great he’s always been. We fall in love with Sharon Carter very quickly too.

There’s some minor quibbles. A lot of it to do with the end. Even though they don’t actually use USB, it’s a USB ending of just sticking tech bits into tech bits. Did those Helicarriers hurt anyone when they fell out of the sky? Was that not in anyone’s plan? And what was Hydra’s plan anyway. What was Zola doing at Cap’s old base yet left abandoned? For a hidden assassin, Winter Soldier sure stands on a lot of major highways and roads. Anyway, don’t think too much about it. How cool was the lift scene?

The Russos made a great film here. Watching back, it’s easy to get a bit of CGI fatigue. But it is so peppered with great human, grounded moments that in the end that’s what is remembered. They expertly pulled down the stakes but made a gripping film regardless. With a divisive Iron Man 3 and a panned Thor: The Dark World, this turned phase 2 around (and Marvel would follow up with another killer). It would also elevate Captain America to rival Iron Man as Marvel’s superstar. For a film that avoids so much, it achieved quite a lot.

Best bits

  • Cap in practical action – chasing, the lift, running in Washington and more
  • Falcon. Please be my friend too.
  • Nick Fury’s escape.
  • Pretty great use of Cap mythology without being slaves to the comics – Batroc, Rumlow etc.
  • Just ask Sharon Carter out already. She’s awesome.

Not best bits

  • Server blades. Or something?
  • It’s still a mass of CGI destruction at the end
  • Winter Soldier – worse hidden assassin.
  • Hydra. What was the plan, and when they are so eager to pick a fight, how did they keep the secret so long?
  • Russo have addressed it to some degree, but god, Cap easily could have called the Avengers.

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