Director: Anthony and Joe Russo
Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Frank Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Jenny Agutter
Running Time: 136 min
Plot: Still reeling from his cryo defrostation in the modern day, everyone’s favourite American Captain (Evans) discovers that Hydra have been lying dormant within the US government for over fifty years. This is bad.
In the YouTube ‘Screen Junkies’ literal trailer series, they jibe the first Captain America film for existing solely ‘to set up The Avengers’. By this logic, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is nothing but a two hour and 16 minutes trailer for The Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. Thankfully, it’s a ludicrously patriotic ton more fun than the first one, but it’s still missing the spark that made the Iron Men such a hit.
Captain America has been microwaved and left to dry for quite a while now, but he STILL doesn’t understand modern technology (Moon landing? Pish!). On top of the overwhelming pop culture catch up, the indomitable super human is also struggling to come to terms with the loss of freedom and privacy he fought so hard to protect, especially as it’s largely his own side, SHIELD, that are responsible. When he and Nick Fury’s lives are almost taken, it portents to an inside job arranged by the mega secret gorgonasation, Hydra (remember about them from the first film? Nah, though not). Side by side with Agent Romanov/Black Widow (Scar Jo) and new recruit Falcon (Anthony Mackie), the Cap goes on the run, digging out the country’s darkest secrets from its dankest drawers to stop what is essentially a more murdery version of Minority Report from happening. As for the ‘Winter Soldier’ himself (or herself…) you’ll have to watch it yourself because it’s a surprise.
The senseless violence of The Winter Soldier is good. Really good. Running street battles develop into brutal MMA style metalfisticuffs before segueing into aerial gunfights, while city wide car chases culminate in pile ups John Landis could be proud of and motorbikes and metal Frisbees are put to their ultimate, helicarrier-busting use. It’s commendably intense for a 12A and, in a personal highlight, Jenny Agutter (AWIL’s Nurse Price) gets to make good on her thirty year standing threat to beat someone ‘severely about the face and neck’.
Where the Cap’s second outing trips up is in its consistently feeble attempts to develop him into a hero with standalone credentials. The Captain is plagued by feelings of isolation; he complains often that he doesn’t fit in, yet every time a scene breaches enlightenment or closure another ten minute face-smashing set piece leaves it all in the dust. Co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo try to inject some of the frantic humour they leant making off the wall sitcoms Arrested Development and Community, with cheeky references – including a righteous homage to Pulp Fiction- and call backs to Captain Rodgers iffy love life (‘I’m too busy!’ hahaha, heroes eh?!) littered throughout, but it’s smirkworthy stuff at best.
Chris Evans is your regular goody good guy, and Scarlett Johansson is, as always, great in her role as the silky assassin Romanov. Anthony Mackie is the odd one out, because Falcon is seemingly the only character lacking superhuman capabilities. In addition, he and his wing sprouting jetpack are a clear compromise to having Iron Man around to save the Cap by bringing him to high places every five minutes. On that subject; during all the earth-threatening global takeover craziness in Washington DC, where the **** is Iron Man? At one point we even find out ‘Anthony’ Stark is around and available, just pottering away in his New York pad.
Stay for both the cut scenes, they’re disappointing but worth not moving out of your chair for a little bit longer if you’re a fan. The Winter Soldier is a well put together spectacle, with equal parts espionage and gritty action, but the Russo brothers Marvel debut still feels a little like a straight off the steroid-pumped Avengers advert production line.