Writing more then that might be an exercise in futility, but here we go nevertheless.
I have been a huge fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the early days of the original Iron Man. The idea of having one shared world for all of these enduring characters to play in is a genius one, and it’s been stunningly executed so far, especially when it came time to bring our heroes together for The Avengers. With that said…this very well might be the new champion of this franchise.
The story picks up two years after The Avengers. Super soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has for the most part acclimated to his newfound time period, and is now working for S.H.I.E.L.D full time with the beautiful and bad-ass Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). Steve’s contentment is put to the test when he finds out that the operations of agency heads Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) may not be as sweet and savory as he originally thought. Inconveniently enough (or so it seems), a mysterious mercenary known only as The Winter Soldier starts tearing S.H.I.E.L.D to shreds, causing Steve and Natasha to go on the run, and try to get to the bottom of all this corruption with the help of pilot Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie).
Yes, that was a little vague. Believe me, you will thank me later.
From the opening frame, this film simply sings. The story is wonderfully engaging. While Marvel previously dabbled a bit in the political thriller with certain elements of Iron Man 3, they have perfected it here. Not only do the numerous levels of corruption lead to some truly unexpected twists and turns, but also the grounded, realistic tone steeps the whole affair in tension and consequence. Even at it’s most bombastic, this movie feels like it’s about real people, in real danger, which makes the action sequences all the more effective.
The main cast is uniformly excellent. Chris Evans has done a fantastic job with the role of Steve Rogers over the years, but here, he perfects it. What has always been so wonderful about Steve Rogers is his sense of kindness and morality towards his fellow man (when he’s not bashing their heads in), and even in the face of all of these horrible secrets being revealed, Evans never looses sight of that, making Rogers an engaging, and incredibly likable protagonist. Johansson, and Mackie do equally wonderful work as his foils. Johansson has completely settled into the physicality of Black Widow, while also giving her a great deal of depth. Her more weathered, cynical attitude forms a great contrast, and chemistry with Roger’s more idealistic one. Mackie, the newcomer, is just pure fun to watch as Sam Wilson/The Falcon. He brings a likability, and sense of loyalty to the character that we don’t see in most sidekicks, and as such, he’s one of the more engaging characters of that ilk.
The supporting cast is also solid. Firstly, The Winter Soldier. I won’t mention the actor’s name at the risk of spoiling his identity, but man, did he do an amazing job. With a very small amount of dialogue, he manages to still be incredibly menacing just through the pure precision, and malice with which he carries out his missions. Once you do find out what his backstory is, it makes his decent into madness all the more heartbreaking. Also, veteran actors Samuel L Jackson, and Robert Redford relish the opportunity to have some fun with great material.
The action sequences are absolutely stunning, and man, was that unexpected. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo (Community) are certainly not used to this sort of thing, but boy did they learn fast. They have a keen eye for physical, hand to hand combat. The brawls are amazingly choreographed, with every single hit feeling bone-crunchingly hard. This is the first time these characters have truly felt like killers. Captain America absolutely brutalizes his enemies just through his pure strength, and that is finally depicted in full force. It’s not just restricted to brawls though, there are a couple amazing, mostly practically done car chases, and a spectacular arial climax that all feel weighty, and tense because we are so invested in these characters, and these two superstar directors do such a wonderful job of putting us out there in battle with them.
While the Avengers may be a more impressive film in terms of sheer ambition, this movie by far tells a better story. It remains one hundred percent true to it’s characters, while still weaving an accessible, engaging, and thematic tale. Even if you are not a fan of Marvel, you owe it to yourself to check out what is without a doubt one of the finer action films in years.
Any complaints I have are pure nitpicks. This is one of the best comic book films of all time.