Captain America returns in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” an espionage thriller that is easily the most intellectually engaging Marvel film since Bryan Singer’s “X-Men.”
The film moves at a break-neck speed, barely allowing viewers time to breathe. When the slow scenes — which are far and few — arrive, viewers can’t help but think about how the U.S. deals with national security.
The plot is simple. The film follows the events in “The Avengers” as Captain America is still trying to adjust to modern society while protecting the free world. He’s assisted by the intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., but not all is what it seems. After a bloody attack is carried out on S.H.I.E.L.D., fingers are pointed at Captain America and he goes on the run. With the American government and S.H.I.E.L.D. after him, Captain America has to clear his name and find out who the real enemy is.
The script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is brilliant and an homage to great spy films like “Where Eagles Dare,” “The Bourne Identity” and “The Guns of Navarone.” In fact, characters Black Widow, Falcon and Nick Fury constantly reference these films. These references don’t distract from the script’s underlying question: are intelligence agencies really obtaining our personal information to protect us or is there another motive?
The script features many great dramatic scenes allowing the lead actors to showcase their acting chops. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford and the rest of the cast elevate the screenplay with their performances. The cast also has dynamic chemistry, which adds to the movie’s greatness.
Evans, once again, proves that he was born to play Captain America. Through his headstrong demeanor and his unwavering determination, he makes the audience feel that he’s a man struggling to protect a world he no longer knows. Evans must have modeled his portrayal of Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, after James Dean’s performance in “Rebel Without a Cause.” It’s easy to mistake Evans for Dean in the film because his posture, clothes, hairstyle and even speaking style is similar to Dean’s. His performance is symbolic of Captain America’s rebellion against S.H.I.E.L.D.’s methods. He doesn’t support how the agency sacrifices privacy or the right to a fair trial to protect the U.S. from terrorism. Evans conveys his distaste with stunning accuracy during his wonderful interactions with the rest of the cast.
Johansson reminds comic fans why she was the perfect choice for Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. In addition to looking stunning in the iconic black leather cat suit, Johansson essentially plays the ultimate femme fatale, leaving viewers and comic fans wondering whose side she’s on. She’s rather unemotional throughout the movie, making her all the more believable; Black Widow is a spy and spies can’t let emotions creep into their missions.
Anthony Mackie, who plays Captain America’s iconic sidekick, Falcon, does his character justice. Mackie plays the character like a mysterious soldier. He’s thrusted into an extraordinary situation and tries his best to help Captain America come out on top.
Delving into the character of the Winter Soldier would spoil the movie, but his performance is extremely sinister; he can only be described as a killing machine.
Robert Redford plays Alexander Pierce and is probably one of the main reasons the movie is so good. Pierce is a J. Edgar Hoover-type character who leaves the audience wondering, “Is this guy really trying to protect us or does he have some other motive?” His performance is seemingly based on former vice president Dick Cheney. Redford’s posture and attitude screams Cheney.
Direction from Anthony and John Russo, in combination with Trent Opaloch’s cinematography, gives the film a constant sense of urgency. The camera is almost always moving and when it stops, it doesn’t do so for long.
It makes viewers feel as if they are part of the pursuit and, at the same time, being watched by S.H.I.E.L.D.
Even though this is an awesome movie, it does have two flaws. Emily VanCamp, known for the TV show “Revenge,” plays Agent 13, one of Captain America’s love interests in the comics. However, in this spy thriller, she only has two scenes and adds absolutely nothing to the story. Another problem is the narrative. Avid fans of the Captain America comics like me will know who in the movie can be trusted and who’s bad news. Since this film relies on suspense, it takes away from the experience of what’s coming next.
But, despite its flaws, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” gets two thumbs up. It’s a story that makes viewers think about where our intelligence agencies are and the modern world are heading. So get your friends, grab a bowl of popcorn and watch Captain America fight some bad guys.