Captain America: The Winter Soldier feels like a refreshing bold move for Marvel. The emphasis here is on physical combat and mixed martial arts which lends the film an intensity that it’s super-powered counterparts entirely lack. If there is CGI it’s used efficiently on scale set-pieces and painting in backgrounds rather than lending incredible powers to people. In that sense Captain America: The Winter Soldier isn’t really a super-hero film at all.
It centres upon a conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D, which astutely blends real-life events – the repurposing of Nazi scientists to aid America in fighting the Cold War – and the Marvel universe by making one of those scientists a former member of Hyda: the rogue Nazi scientific wing. The heavy political emphasis underlining the film is intriguing and gives a feeling of maturity to the film, without making it in inaccessible for younger fans, since as mentioned the Cap spends a lot of time crunching skulls and twirling his shield at people.
On the acting front Chris Evans is strikingly unassuming as the lead. He does understated comedy well and his physicality is impressive, but the two don’t make up for the lack of real charisma. Unlike Chris Hemsworth in the Thor films, Evans doesn’t command your attention and instead relies upon a few one-liners and his rippling muscles.
If anything, he’s consistently upstaged in the film by the gorgeous and deadly Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson). Johansson takes to the role with pure glee, nailing combat scenes and grabbing the best lines of the film for herself. She’s consistently more impressive than Evans and more captivating – towards the end of the film when the two go their separate ways, it’s the Widow you’re waiting for rather than the Captain.
Sebastian Stan as the eponymous Winter Soldier is particularly chilling and that probably relates to the – excuse the pun – coldness of the character. Dialogue is kept to the minimum and instead everything is related through eyes and body language. There’s a real menace whenever Stan stalks onto screen and the development of Bucky’s back-story from the first Captain America film is intriguing.
Among the supporting cast Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) remains resolutely entertaining, Maria Hill (Cobie Smoulders) makes the best of her limited screen time and special mention should go to Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp). With the bare minimum of screen time she’s steals all the scenes she’s in and even has time to set the groundwork for a future romance with the Captain. Gamely taking to action sequences, delivering endearingly awkward flirtation and due to her limited screen-time cultivating mystery in her character she’s a far more interesting romantic foil than any of the other love interests in the franchise.
Without question Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel film since Iron-Man. The plotting is extremely tight and neatly blends elements of science-fiction, political conspiracy, espionage and martial arts into one relentlessly entertaining piece of cinema. A true must for fans of the Marvel franchise.