Captain America: The Winter Soldier

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

"If you're a fan of Marvel's cinematic universe, you absolutely cannot miss this instalment."

Captain America: Colon Subtitle was a setup for The Avengers and as such it wasn't very good. Captain America: Colon Subtitle 2 may be a setup for The Avengers: Inevitable Sequel, but it's not encumbered with telling an origin story at the same time, and it's better for it.

Captain “Steve Rogers” America, played by Chris “not that Chris Evans” Evans is a man out of time, frozen in the 1940s and awoken in the present day. He works for S.H.I.E.L.D, essentially a US defense quango with superheroes. He has an indestructible shield he likes to throw at people. This is about all you need to know.

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In an opening sequence that will no doubt be familiar to anyone who's ever played Metal Gear Solid 2, Cap stealthily and almost single­handedly takes out a gang of pirates who have captured a S.H.I.E.L.D vessel and are holding it to ransom. When he catches teammate Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) having a rummage through computers when she's supposed to be killing dudes, we're all set up for the major source of tension in the movie: trust. Can Cap trust his fellow Avenger? Can either of them trust Samuel L Nick Muthafucking Fury Jackson? Can Nick Fury trust anyone in the entire world? This film won't succeed in making you care, but it's certainly going to give it a shot.

Cap 2: Cap Harder tries to have its superhero cake and eat it by donning the clothing of a Seventies spy intrigue (complete with Robert Redford) and then somehow still ending up with a ridiculous OTT CGI climax where huge exploding skyships crash into equally huge buildings and the lives of minor characters are imperiled. The early frisson between Nick Fury and Cap works nicely, directly opposing Cap's good­guy morality and S.H.I.E.L.D'S plans to pre­emptively eliminate their foes from a trio of terrifying sky­fortresses. Then we sort of wander off into a morass of action sequences and the next thing we know it's a Cap/Black Widow road trip/buddy movie. And it's great. Not only does Johansson get to further develop the best and most complex female character in a superhero movie to date, Widow and Cap have a chemistry that goes further than the worn out “will they/won't they” dynamic, and the attempts to ape Joss Whedon's style of dialogue are by and large pretty successful. More of this, please.

Sadly it doesn't last, as films with a character's name as the subtitle are pretty much obliged to introduce that character sooner or later. So finally we get to meet rubbish villain the Winter Soldier, who looks like he was designed by the same committee that gave us Poochie the dog. He suffers from many of the same rubbish villain flaws as rubbish villain Whiplash in Iron Man 2, only with fewer lines and less charisma. Iron Man 2 was the worst Iron Man. Draw your own conclusions.

Despite being about half an hour too long and not really knowing what sort of film it wants to be, there's a lot to enjoy about Captain America: The Rubbish Villain. The action set­pieces are particularly striking for being mostly live action: aside from the climax, CGI has been kept to a minimum. The inclusion of Falcon, the first African­ American superhero in mainstream comics, is a welcome move, even if he's largely relegated to a “Cap's sidekick” role. The plot is a huge improvement on the “beat up the Nazis and steal their macguffin” of the first outing, and its resolution leaves the Marvel universe in a very interesting place come The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Comics enthusiasts will appreciate a throwaway nod to Stephen Strange, the fleeting introduction of Agent 13, and a Whedon­-directed post­-credits sequence (one of two) which suggests the series may be moving in a somewhat more mystical direction. If you're a fan of Marvel's cinematic universe, you absolutely cannot miss this instalment. There again, it's pretty unlikely you were going to.

Reviewed on: 21 Mar 2014
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Suspicion within S.H.I.E.L.D. complictes matters as our hero takes on a new enemy.
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Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Writer: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Dominic Cooper, Cobie Smulders, Toby Jones, Frank Grillo, Jenny Agutter, Emily VanCamp

Year: 2014

Runtime: 136 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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