'Cap 2' better than ever before
Darker, funnier, smarter and better, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" doesn't simply propel its titular protagonist to the superhero A-List, the film rivals both "Iron Man" and "The Avengers" as the one of the finest installments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date.
While "Captain America: The First Avenger" was a fun WWII period film, the sequel propels Cap into a true hero of the 21st century. It deals with heavy issues, including government conspiracies, treason and the blurring lines between friend or foe. "The Winter Soldier" is a more relevant superhero film for our times than any other produced in recent memory.
Set two years after the events of "The Avengers," the film opens with Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), living in Washington D.C. and working as a field agent for the secret government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. After attempts are made on the lives of S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Cap himself, Steve Rogers must team up with agent Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen), and retired soldier Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon, in an attempt to stop the very organization to which they've sworn their allegiance before S.H.I.E.L.D. executive Alexander Piece (Robert Redford) and the mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) can execute a catastrophic plan.
In an age where the prospect of universal government surveillance is simultaneously promoted and feared, the film asks us to ponder the question "Has mankind willingly surrendered its freedom?"
Wisely focusing more on character development than non-stop action, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" reaches an emotional level few other superhero films have. Cap himself shines in the film as a true hero, simply trying to do the right thing over and over again, while the question about what truly is the "right" thing to do becomes more ambiguous.
Relying more on traditional effects than CGI, directors Anthony and Joe Russo have hit it out of the park with the film's action scenes. A flurry of well-choreographed fight scenes focusing on hand-to-hand combat proves just as enjoyable, if not more so, than seeing hundreds of alien invaders soar through the sky or a large-scale attack by a series super powered bio-terrorists. That said, the film's very final act could have used a bit of a break in between the non-stop action, but even that minor shortcoming merits little mention.
Evans and Jackson each deliver predictably solid performances. Johansson gives her best performance yet as Black Widow, serving as a major source of comic relief delivering almost as many one liners as Robert Downey Jr. would in an "Iron Man" film. Stan's "Winter Soldier" villain is truly terrifying and the best villain seen in the MCU to date besides Loki while Hollywood veteran Robert Redford's Alexander Piece character adds a truly sinister element to the film.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" not only cements Cap's place as one of the greatest modern superheroes, but it makes you do something that few films ever manage these days: think.
The post 9/11-era has seen massive changes in how and why warfare is conducted. The threat of terrorism is still relevant, and many question just how far the government should be permitted to go to address that threat. "The Winter Soldier" addresses these and an even more disturbing question: What if our security is compromised from within?
A stellar action film full of comedy, heart and true unabashed heroism, "Captain America: The Winter Solider" stands as a fantastic achievement for the MCU. The bar has been substantially raised for the remainder of the summer's blockbusters.
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