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Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is nearly at an end and Captain America is set to return to action once again in a very entertaining and satisfying start to the 2014 blockbuster season.
Since the events of The Avengers, Steve Rodgers/Captain America (Chris Evans) has become a full member of S.H.I.E.L.D. and is working as a top special forces field operative. During a rescue mission to save hostages from a notorious pirate, Batroc (George St-Pierre), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) retrieves intelligence for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) regarding Operation Insight, a scheme that allows S.H.I.E.L.D. to have three Helicarriers across the globe. With S.H.I.E.L.D. constantly targeting threats against America, Captain America objects to the morality of this policy and brings it up to Fury. Nick Fury then attempts to examine the intelligence even he does not have clearance and he becomes the target for the mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier. Captain America ends up being a public enemy, along together with Black Widow, where they both have to expose an enemy within S.H.I.E.L.D. as they are targeted by the agency.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier satisfies both as an action movie and being a more complex story than any other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The conspiracy storyline forcing Captain America to go rogue is very much Marvel’s version of spy thriller and our hero having to battle a secret internal threat, like Jason Bourne against Tredstone, James Bond versus Quantum and Jack Bauer and rogue elements of the Palmer administration during the second season of 24. Washington D.C. is the main setting for the movie and plays a big part of the story due the movie taking place in the intelligence world and like Iron Man 3 has a big conspiracy and investigation as a part of its narrative.
The Russo Brothers took on the directing for the sequel, who are known for directing episodes for Community and Arrested Development. For the two brothers who come from a comedy background, The Russo’s end up making one of the more serious movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They successfully cut their teeth with big budget filmmaking, showing confidence by giving us a fast pace adventure, bringing us the Marvel version of a thriller and providing some solid action sequences. Some of the action sequences were shot too closely, in a confined space like an elevator or in a ship, not so good during a fist fight in the middle of a city. This was made up for by an action-packed third act as Captain America battle his match and greatly realizes the use of Falcon and his flight pack as the camera follows him in the sky. The action for most of the movie is based around good old fashioned fist fights, gun battles and chase and there is much raw, grounded feel as Captain America fights the Winter Soldier and highly trained assassins.
Many actors joined the cast of Captain America and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Redford adds a lot of gravitas giving his years of experience and prestige as he plays the villain of the piece. Anthony Mackie as Falcon is always a welcome presence and he allows one of Marvel’s minor characters to have his time to shine. Emily VanCamp and Frank Grillo were solid enough in their supporting roles: Grillo was an impressive physical threat in the henchman role and is in really good shape for someone in his early 50s.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has obviously uses the themes of both The Patriot Act to monitor people and the use of drones to attack potential threats and Captain America acts as a critical voice as he starts for real America values of freedom and liberty whilst S.H.I.E.L.D. which has been a more ambiguous force saying these action are used to protect America. While this movie was written before the Snowden leaks, it is easy see parallels between real life events of the NSA to the action of S.H.I.E.L.D. When the villain’s plot is fully revealed, it shows a more complex, subtle plan raises issues about social control and manipulation and the American Industrial-Military Complex.
Captain America: Winter Soldier is a movie that stands on its own, servicing as an excellent stand alone event and even more rewarding to experience to fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The Russo Brothers and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely give fans little Easter Eggs of the wider universe that comic fans will recognize which will not be spoiled here. There are potential set ups for expansions to the franchise and the post-credit scenes whet the appetite for more.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is movie that delivers on both the action front and on story. It will please fans of Marvel and fans of action spy genre. It is the best of the Marvel Phase Two movies so far.