I recall the first Captain America film from a couple of years ago being an exciting, well-done action film based on the legendary comic book character. Now comes Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which our hero, whom we last saw during World War II, emerges from his cryogenic sleep in the 21st century. Naturally, there needs to be a catastrophic crisis from which the Captain must save the world. Yes, the plot is that simple, but it’s all the other ingredients in this second outing that makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier such a spectacular thrill ride.
The cast is excellent. Chris Evans returns as the titular hero with his magic shield, and if anything has improved as an actor. He’s self-effacing, charming, yet rugged, and able to do what’s needed of him, whether in hand-to-hand combat, or zipping around in various forms of futuristic machinery. Anthony Mackie, who made such a good impression in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker, turns in a most welcome performance as the ex-soldier who becomes the Captain’s associate, a flying fighter known as The Falcon. Mackie is quite likely on his way to having starring roles before long. And Scarlet Johansson is back as Natascha, aka The Black Widow. She’s every bit the dedicated equal of the Captain and The Falcon physically and emotionally. Of course, it never hurts to have a couple of old pros in the cast to give the film some star power. Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. He’s an old hand at action films and Nick Fury is one of his best characterizations. Also on board is Robert Redford as the founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a key role, and certainly not beneath Redford’s talent. He still has a magical screen presence, and it’s amazing to me that he didn’t score an Oscar nomination for his one-man film All is Lost. And in the “blink and you might miss them” category, we have Toby Jones, Jenny Agutter, and Mr. Marvel himself, Stan Lee, with a one-scene, one-line cameo.
The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely is tight and action-packed, while leaving some room for characterization. There is just the right amount of quotable lines and sly nods to other films to keep your attention. In fact, at 136 minutes I neither twitched in my seat nor checked the time. These days, with films being, or feeling, much longer, that’s high praise indeed. And it probably didn’t hurt having two directors to handle all the cast, special effects, miniatures, and more. They are the Brothers Russo, Anthony and Joe, who have done a couple of feature films, but generally have learned their craft in television.
Composer Henry Jackman turns in another fine score, much as he did for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I’m thinking that somewhere along his career path, Jackman might be a good fit to score a Bond film or two.
I saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier in IMAX 3-D. The 3-D effects were good and worth seeing. However, the last couple of films I’ve seen in IMAX seemed noticeably darker than the images of a regular 3-D presentation. I would suggest you skip the IMAX, but go for the 3-D. And for once, the music and sound effects are complementary to the film, and not so loud and overpowering as to feel like you’re being crushed in your seat.
The PG-13 rated Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a lot of fun, and hopefully not the last really good movie of the new summer season. It’s now showing virtually everywhere.