It was never going to be easy to follow through on the blockbuster masterpiece that was The Avengers. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the Thor sequel, and while Iron Man 3 was a well-executed affair, it ultimately fell short of Tony Stark’s majestic debut. Nevertheless, my excitement for next year’s Avengers follow-up has not waned, and I decided that I couldn’t possibly miss Marvel’s latest offering. Thankfully my expectations were surpassed, because much like Spiderman 2 and X2, The Winter Solider is one hell of an exhilarating sequel.
The film’s script is highly ambitious, weaving together a complex web of intrigue that takes the S.H.I.E.L.D. narrative into some unexpected places. The twists are many, and they manage to feel tremendously satisfying within the story’s scope. Quite fittingly, a large chunk of this film’s success rests on Chris Evans’ shoulders. Evans possesses a simple and likable charm that just oozes off the screen, and The Winter Soldier is undoubtedly his best performance as the iconic Steve Rogers. He handles the film’s multitude of set pieces with convincing athleticism, while also delivering on the pivotal emotional beats with nuance and honesty (a quality befitting that of the idealistic hero).
I wasn’t a fan of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow in Iron Man 2, but Joss Whedon utilized the character beautifully in The Avengers, and that streak continues in Captain America’s second outing. Not only is Scarlett much more comfortable with the character, but the antiheroine gets a ton of standout moments (particularly of the action kind). In addition, Natasha’s dynamic with Steve is subtle and far from heavy-handed. I’m curious to see if the Marvel Gods ever decide to pair them up romantically in the future, because Johansson obviously has a ton more chemistry with the Captain as opposed to Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye.
As for the rest of the cast, Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson are suitably effective – both are as imposing and magnetic as their roles require. Anthony Mackie also turns in an engaging performance as Falcon. Although I wasn’t too fond of his numerous CGI sequences, the rest of the film’s effects are thankfully of a more practical nature. Furthermore, Steve’s nemesis, The Winter Soldier, is an effectively haunting antagonist, and he provides the film with a real sense of urgency and momentum.
As for the action? Let’s just say that directors Anthony and Joe Russo have managed to craft some downright mindblowing set pieces. In fact, they’re the kind of sequences you probably haven’t seen before, injecting routine car chases and close-combat fight scene with fresh twists and a striking dose of originality. I was genuinely astounded.
An edgy and gripping spy-thriller, Captain America’s second outing is most certainly one of the Marvel Universe’s crowning achievements. Highly Recommended.