By: Samar Khan

Hail Hydra

Very rarely can one watch a film (especially a superhero film in a well established Cinematic Universe) and still be able to consider the film great for both fans of a series and newcomers to a series. Marvel knocks it out of the park with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, whose grounded (as much as a film about super-soldiers can be grounded) superhero style meshes extremely well with the political thriller format popularized in the 1970’s and 80’s. Take Captain America, add in the grittiness seen in Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, sprinkle in a little Robert Redford (the LEGEND himself) and you have the best Marvel film to date in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Right off the bat, the film establishes that Robert Redford will play a key role, with his role as shady figurehead Alexander Pierce in the S.H.I.E.L.D organization reminiscent of the villains from Minority Report. The Minority Report comparison is more than apt because the film centers around Pierce attempting to implement a security system that can take out potential and active terrorists at the tap of a button. It’s very evil and Redford portrays the role with aplomb, yet lends an understated aspect to his character that makes him less a “cartoony villain” and more someone you can actually see in today’s politically charged society.


Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

As the story goes on, S.H.I.E.L.D becomes compromised, Nick Fury (played by everybody’s favourite Samuel L. Jackson) is targeted by Pierce and is dispatched to be killed at the hands of the film’s titular villain, the Winter Soldier (played in a brilliantly menacing performance by Sebastian Stan). Let’s make this clear: Marvel has struggled (to put it gently) to create a villain that is actually imposing. Every villain thus far in their Cinematic Universe has underwhelmed and fan-favourite Loki played by Tom Hiddleston is more anti-hero than he is a villain. Stan, therefore, makes for a refreshing treat for audiences, both as a villain that looks imposing (that metal arm is deadly) and presents an actual challenge to our hero. The film then centers on Chris Evans (again in a wonderful performance that exceeds the performance delivered in Captain America: The First Avenger) Steve Rogers/Captain America going after said Winter Soldier in a bid to figure out his identity and simultaneously avenge the assassination attempt against Nick Fury. Suffice it to say, the climactic showdown will have you feeling things and marvelling at how well the entire film has played out before said battle.

Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Scarlett Johansson returns as Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow and delivers a much more emotionally nuanced performance than the ones delivered in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers (which we will review prior to the release of Doctor Strange). The script called for her to have a more active role in the story and it worked, as she went from being mere combat-skilled eye candy in her debut Marvel film to someone that helped advance the story and played an integral role in Cap’s battle against the Winter Soldier. Anthony Mackie made his Marvel films debut as Sam Wilson, who immediately captivates the audience with his sense of humour and instant chemistry with Evans’ Rogers character. It also allows the audience to see the birth of a brand new superhero, Falcon, and how he will fit into the upcoming Captain America: Civil War.


Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Doing an excellent job at making all of these pieces fit were first-time Marvel directors, Joe and Anthony Russo (diehard Community fans may recognize them for their work on some of the comedy series most popular episodes). Their skill at capturing body language was the most impressive aspect, as they managed to capture the gentle prodding and teasing between the trio of Evans, Mackie and Johansson in their quieter scenes. While not something that is instantly obvious to most moviegoers, it was a nice touch and really played up the whole “authentic” aspect that many a film lack. Their action sequences were, for the most part, well choreographed and added an element of thrill and a sense of foreboding doom whenever the Winter Soldier appeared on screen. Their action scenes weren’t flawless, of course, as the Bourne-esque quick-cut editing and occasional shaky cam was a real eyesore when it reared its ugly head. Thankfully, that was kept mostly to a minimum but it does detract from the viewing experience a tad.


Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson/Falcon in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Another particularly excellent aspect of the film was the great script put together by the duo of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, who had the appropriate amount of action complemented by an equally appropriate and brisk amount of dialogue between characters. It lent the film a more streamlined feeling and allowed it to flow smoothly throughout the duration of its near 140-minute runtime. Their script, combined with the visuals and direction of the Russo brothers, is all tied together neatly by the excellent soundtrack that doesn’t reach Hans Zimmer levels of memorability but still wows you. Case in point, there is a scene a quarter of the way through the film that concerns the aforementioned assassination attempt against Nick Fury. The scene is BRILLIANTLY captured (notice the use of caps here) and plays up just how destructible Nick Fury’s mode of transportation is. Its excellence is elevated further when the Winter Soldier makes his debut, with the ominous tunes signifying that this new guy is “here to kick some a**.”


Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So, to recap: We have covered a few films from within this Marvel Cinematic Universe as a means of covering all that has come before the upcoming Captain America: Civil War. There have been some duds, some very solid films and some in between but it is this author’s opinion that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best film of this Marvel Cinematic Universe to date. It’s great for newcomers to the series, fantastic for the fans (who will appreciate the after-credits scenes) and just offers something different compared to the wise-cracking nature of the Iron Man films and the fantastical nature of the Thor films. Watch it, I implore thee.

Hail Hydra

After careful consideration, we here at The Film Lawyers have graced Captain America: The Winter Soldier with a grade of A- (8.5/10).