Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the latest offering in the Marvel Studios juggernaut, and it’s a fantastic example of what the film series has to offer in terms of quality, spectacle and sheer fun. Chris Evans returns as the titular captain, the super soldier who beat the Nazis, saved New York in The Avengers and is currently doing wet work for S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside Black Widow, played again by Scarlett Johansson.
While the original Captain America: The First Avenger was full of the kind of good vs. evil, black and white heroics that people commonly associate with the era. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is set in the present and is therefore much grayer. The world Captain Rogers finds himself in is markedly different and while The Avengers touched on that briefly, this movie unpacks it to both humorous and disconcerting ends. There are elements of a political thriller to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, as Rogers and company are faced with an agency performing morally objectionable acts, betrayal at the highest levels of power and a mysterious assassin who stops at nothing to get his target.
While Joe Johnston helmed the original, giving it the retro sensibilities and spirit of Johnston’s other fantastical action film The Rocketeer, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, a pair that are better known direction comedic television. This was actually an inspired choice, as they manage to keep so many plates spinning at once, while maintaining a brisk 96-minute runtime.
The action is beautifully kinetic and direct. The way Captain America utilizes his shield, and the way the fight choreography takes advantage of his strength and speed is really something to behold. There are believable stakes here, even if we’re dealing with super soldiers, helicarriers, secret assassins and other things not meant to be spoiled. It all works because of a grounded performance from Evans, who serves as the movie’s moral compass and is inherently likable. And getting Robert Redford to participate in this spectacle is an inspired piece of casting.
At it’s core, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fantastic action movie, beautifully shot and choreographed, with the type of heroics we’ve come to expect from the studio that has continued to deliver quality popcorn movies. It easily stands next to the best Marvel has offered and is a great start to the summer movie season.