Saturday, April 26, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Directors: Anthony & Joe Russo

Spoiler-Free Summary:

Some time following the events of the alien invasion chronicled in The Avengers, Steve Rogers has adjusted to life in the 21st century. He is working with Nick Fury, Natasha Romanov (a.k.a. The Black Widow) and SHIELD to prevent terrorist actions around the globe, though without complete knowledge of the exact reasons for many of his team's actions.

It is revealed that SHIELD is close to completing a massive "deterrent" weapon system known as Project Insight, a tremendous troika of aircraft carrier airships with devastating firepower. With the official activation of Insight about to get the green light, Fury recognizes a potential security breach, and all hell breaks loose. He is attacked, and Rogers and Romanov have to go on the run, evading the highly informed intelligence agency and extremely deadly troops with whom they had worked for the past several years. Added to this is a mystery combatant known only as "The Winter Soldier," who possesses powers and abilities to match Rogers's own fantastically enhanced attributes, and who seems to be doing everything in his considerable skill set to stop Rogers, Romanov, and anyone who is attempting to uncover the nefarious elements working within and against SHIELD.

Using all of their skills in espionage, tactics, and combat, the Widow and the Captain must go way off the grid and uncover just who is at the bottom of the immense treachery at SHIELD and learn just what their plans for Project Insight are.

My Take on the Movie (still no spoilers)

The movie is great. I've now seen it twice, and it supplants the first Iron Man as my favorite solo Avenger movie.

The filmmakers went with some very savvy decisions that pay off. Instead of having Rogers wallow in the trauma of being thrust into the 21st century, he's already taking things in very nice stride, right from the opening scenes. This allows the story to get going and remain focused.

The larger themes are nothing tremendously novel, having at their bases political and ethical questions about intelligence agencies, personal privacy, and potential abuses of tremendous power. Of course, The Winter Soldier, just as a comic book superhero movie should, amps everything up to the fantastically epic scale that a summer blockbuster needs to be.

This doesn't mean, however, that everything in the film is large-scale. There are several quieter, interpersonal moments that offset and lend effect to the grander actions. Rogers's meeting and friendship with Sam Wilson, some of his conversations with Natasha, and a few moments of silent reflection on his own distant past are very welcome. These calmer moments help magnify the size and scope of the larger fights and action sequences.
This bout with an Algerian terrorist leader is a blast to watch
and would have been the finale of a weaker movie.
Winter Soldier, it was the first major fight scene.

As for the action, it's tremendous. Whether it's the smaller-scale fisticuffs, a very well-executed car attack/chase scene, or the over-the-top grand finale, these elements are handled extremely well. They nearly all pack the intensity and excitement that you could ask for from one of this type of movie. Carefully choreographed and dynamic one-on-one fights, the monstrous finale in the skies over DC, and everything in between are quite simply a lot of fun to watch. They stand in stark contrast to the Michael Bay approach of just throwing an insane amount of huge objects up on the screen, moving at blinding speed or in slow-motion, smashing into each other, and blowing up. The Winter Soldier is the kind of movie that I bother to go see on the big screen.

As with all of the other Avengers movies, there is plenty of humor sprinkled throughout. Though I can't say that the moments of levity are all five-star comedy material, there are certainly more hits than misses. It may seem to some that Roger's occasional sarcasm is a little misplaced for such a straight-arrow kind of character, but it's never overdone.

All of the elements come together in this one. Anyone who's enjoyed anything about the other Avengers movies should give this one a watch. You should be well pleased.