Captain America: The Winter Solider (4 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by: Joe and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development, Community)
Screenplay by: Christopher Markus, and Steven McFeely (Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The First Avenger)
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson
In the last of the individual films in Phase Two of the Marvel/Disney films, although I guess Guardians of the Galaxy will be part of that (hint watch Thor: The Dark World) we go back to visit "the first Avenger." Marvel's work with Disney on their phase series leading up to the Avengers have been fun, action packed, and each intricately drop fun truth bombs as to what may come next. This film is no different, it was easily the best in Phase Two, and may be my favorites of all the films, ranking up there with Iron Man, and The Avengers.
Winter Soldier starts with Cap, Black Widow (Johansson) and a team of S.H.I..E.L.D. agents going to rescue other agents, from a barge. As Cap impressively takes on a whole fleet, almost single-handedly, to pave the way for the others the mission soon becomes clear, Nicky Fury (Jackson) has ulterior motives. After the mission Cap and Fury talk about the way in which society has changed, and whether you can use force and their spying ways to attain freedom.
The message of the film, is a poignant and resonates on many levels with current situations going on in our society, hint think problems with the birth place of the Black Widow, or even our own wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. Markus and McFeely who wrote this film, and the first Captain America, do a much better job here. Cap is a relate-able hero; he was the every man, and became super human; he was a soldier fighting to defend his country, and still fights for freedom. The film also speaks to the big brother mentality of government, and the way there is just a general lack of trust in humanity.
The reason the film is great is because it mixes those deep messages, but is also pretty kick-ass. After the mission a new enemy arises, S.H.I..E.L.D. may have been infiltrated by a organization many thought was dead, and they have a new weapon at their disposal, the Winter Soldier. As you may have seen from the trailer this guy is no joke, Cap throws his shield; he catches it and throws it back, with even more might. Without giving any of the plot away, the action sequences are awesome, first time action directors Joe and Anthony Russo who are better known for their work as directors in television sitcoms, like Community, and Arrested Development, lit things on fire, sometimes literally. They crafted a deft film that does a great job emphasizing the depth of the material, while not creating Michael Bay-like action sequences, which over power. The other great part about the action is that Cap is not the sole badass.
I have to applaud Marvel and the creative team behind this film for creating, and using wisely a diverse array of other character. The Black Widow is just as tough as Cap; she takes on the Winter Solider on her own, and fights damn hard. Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) and Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) are two badass S.H.I..E.L.D. agents they are in there on all the action. Samuel L. Jackson gets a little more screen time, and Anthony Mackie does a great job as Falcon. I was the most nervous about Falcon, in the comics the character is a bit cheesy, but they have adapted the character well, and gave his character a decent amount of depth.
This film is not only a home run for Marvel its a Grand Slam, it perfectly elongates the Marvel universe while creating a great story for the central hero, and everyone he works with. Robert Redford was another welcome aspect, the man can act, and its great to have talent like him in these films. There are of course name drops for future Marvel characters for films, and two great closing credits scenes. On all levels this is a well made, fun, action packed film that will excite fans even more, and for me another fanboy hopefully bring more life to the television series Marvel's Agents of S.H.I..E.L.D.. Great intense film.