Anthony and Joe Russo might be seem like a surprise choice to helm one of the biggest films of the year. In fact the Russo brothers are relative unknowns, with only You, Me and Dupree, a few episodes of Arrested Development and Welcome to Collinwood standing out on their CV. However their comedic background is a blessing as Captain America: The Winter Soldier has plenty of quips and one-liners throughout and they handle the fast paced action with all the aplomb of seasoned pros.
As the majority of the characters appeared in 2011s original Captain America and more recently The Avengers, writers Christopher Marcus and Stephan McFeely waste no time on the main casts backstory. Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and army veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) are the newcomers, though calling Redford a newcomer is a disservice. After all he was acting long before his co-stars where born. This is a role he can perform in his sleep, the kind of masterly paper pusher he delivered in the underrated Spy Game. Adhering to the The Winter Soldier’s brisk pace, Wilson is introduced quite literally on the run. His instant rapport with Steve Rogers making it obvious he is in for the long haul. Though why an American Captain would be interested in England’s one and only World Cup victory is a mystery.
Fortunately the extended trailer that cinema goers have been treated to is not a spoiler *cough* Fast n Furious *cough* but the first action scene of a surprisingly dark opening act. A first act that finally lets Nick Fury do more than recruit Marvel’s best and brightest, it shows exactly why he is the big dog on campus, after all no one does badass quite like Laurence Fishburne (couldn’t resist, eh? ed)
It’s not just Samuel L. Jackson that gets to flex his action muscles though, as both Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) and Mackie (The Falcon) have plenty to do. Whether as a team, when they take on The Winter Soldier or individually for the final showdown, where EVERYONE has their appointed tasks. Unsurprisingly however it’s Chris Evans that gets the majority of the screen time but the entire cast seem to be enjoying themselves and the chemistry between Evans and Johansson smoulders pleasingly beneath the surface coming to the fore in a successful twist on the classic kissing to avoid being spotted scene.
While the actors might be ahead of the game the score is standard blockbuster fare, thumping chords for the chase scenes, slow tingly ones for the sadder ones. It does redeem itself however with a grungy electro vibe every time Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is on screen.
Sadly Stan is the weak link in an otherwise excellent film. He fits perfectly into the action scenes, going toe to toe with Captain America in some explosive set pieces but he is given little else to do except look morose and that devalues the emotional punch of the conclusion. Also Stan Lee’s customary cameo is somewhat flat, a far cry from The Amazing Spiderman or Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Verdict: Captain America: The Winter Soldier does away with the originals comic book villainy opting instead for a plot reminiscent of espionage thrillers from the early nineties and delivers an action packed sequel that is better than its predecessor. An uncharismatic villain is the only real negative. Rogers might be getting better at references but bets are he didn’t get the Pulp Fiction one.