Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 30th March 2014
Steve Rogers just wants to get the hang of modern living. Having been cryogenically frozen for nearly 70 years, he has missed the key cultural moments of the 20th century, so it’s both funny and rather sweet when he whips out his notebook to record “Marvin Gaye” in his list of must-learns (which inexplicably also includes “Tim Tams”).
But Rogers isn’t going to have time to listen to the purportedly seminal album any time soon, since his day-job is as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D, the force of avenging law enforcers tasked with saving the world from foes both foreign (here relics of the Cold War rear their heads) and allegedly friendly. By the time Captain America has been conscripted to fight the terror of an algorithm which predicts humanity’s no-hopers for preemptive extinction, he doesn’t know who to trust.
Fighting French baddies for once, the story kicks off with a ship hijacking but then wades into expositional waters. The excitement doesn’t really take off until Samuel L. Jackson’s agency director Nick Fury gets into a spot of car trouble and suddenly the film hurtles from set-piece to set-piece, in and around modern-day Washington DC. The action darts between fights and car chases, politically-concerned dialogue and franchise in-jokes.
The first Captain America movie digressed pleasantly from Marvel Comics’ usual reliance on CGI costuming and bombastic scenes of destruction by plucking the puny Rogers from World War II and making him into an old-fashioned superhero – all chiselled jaw and mid-century boyish charm. Thankfully the charm is intact in this follow-up (three years since the last film, though the Captain has appeared in crossover Marvel movies in the interim), particularly evident in his easy banter and almost-chemistry with Scarlett Johansson’s Agent Romanoff (nominally Black Widow, though not referred to as such in my hearing at least), who tries to fix him up on dates with girls from the office. Donning hi-tops and hoodies, with Rogers’ shield slung over his back, they make quite the fetching couple as they go on the run with new friend the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) watching their backs.
The casting is strong, with old-timers Robert Redford and Jenny Agutter lending gravitas, and while the story occasionally harks back to previous Captain America scenarios, newcomers will find much to enjoy. The Winter Soldier is a worthy addition to the stable and nicely positioned to leave die-hard fans hankering for 2016’s sequel.