Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Director:  Anthony & Joe Russo
Cast:  Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank GrilloSebastian Stan, Robert Redford, Toby Jones
Plot:  Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world and battles a new threat from old history: the Soviet agent known as the Winter Soldier.

Genre:  Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Visual Effects
Runtime:  136min
Rating:  PG for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

“This isn't freedom.  This is fear.”

A class above its predecessor Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), this latest Marvel movie is quite simply one of the best efforts that the studio has produced over the last few years.  It is not just another action movie, as local newspaper The Straits Times' film reviewer John Lui put it, but a well-made superhero picture that critically and tantalizingly continues the Marvel juggernaut on an upward trajectory. 

S.H.I.E.L.D finds itself compromised and taken over by a cold and calculative man.  The Captain and Black Widow become fugitives who are hunted down ruthlessly.  The great thing about Captain America: The Winter Soldier is that it doesn't feel like a perfunctory chapter.  It doesn't simply fill a gap; it creates new openings. 

It is an exciting lead up to next year's Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), which I am sure will break the box-office records already so massively set by The Avengers (2012).  The storytelling here is superb and the action sequences are well thought out, even if they eschew the old-school treatment of the first movie for more visual effects.  The stakes are raised incredibly high in the climax, yet at the summit it doesn't disappoint, not just spectacularly but dramatically.

Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson get the most screen time, often together in the same scenes as the movie builds on their chemistry and develops big action set-pieces around the duo.  This is the film where the Black Widow truly comes of age; her character is in many ways indispensable to the plot.  The Captain himself continues to project values of honour, perseverance and sacrifice, particularly in his relationship with the film's main villain – the mysterious Winter Soldier.

Much is made about Evans’ lack of screen charisma.  He is still one of the weaker actors around headlining a major summer blockbuster.  When Iron Man 3 (2013) opened, I wanted to see both Iron Man and Robert Downey Jr..  When Thor: The Dark World (2013) opened, I wanted to see both Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddlestone.  Evans doesn’t quite command your attention or anticipation in that way, but if you somehow decide to skip this one for whatever reason, it is your loss.  Unless you have nothing to lose in the first place.

Verdict:  Not just another action movie, this is one of the best Marvel films that tantalizingly continues the story on an upward trajectory.


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