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Overall Rating
3.91

Awesome: 30.43%
Worth A Look43.48%
Average: 19.57%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 6.52%

4 reviews, 22 user ratings


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Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A.K.A. 3 Days Of The S.H.I.E.L.D."
3 stars

In all honesty, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," the latest superhero-du-jour to hit theaters, is probably a better movie than I think it is. It builds and improves on its predecessor, the eminently forgettable "Captain America: The First Avenger," it offers up a storyline that is a little more complex and grounded in reality than is the norm for the genre, it has generally good performances and a welcome sense of humor and the action sequences, although not exactly ground-breaking, are reasonably well-executed and rarely lapse into the overly frenetic editorial pudding that is the mark of too many genre films of late. And yet, despite all of that, I cannot quite bring myself to fully recommend the film because it never quite finds that final spark of ingenuity to fully separate it from the glut of comic-book-inspired epics that has inundated multiplexes over the last few years--for all of its achievements, this is ultimately just another film in which everything ultimately boils down to yet another extended scene of oddly costumed people pounding the crap out of each other while destruction rains down upon them.

Warning: The following plot description has been written in a way that assumes that you, gentle reader, have already seen the previous "Captain America" film and "The Avengers," the multi-hero mashup that the character also appeared in. If you have not seen those films, it is advised that you do so before even thinking of seeing this one or even reading this review. Then again, if you haven't seen those films already, why would you be reading this in the first place?

Now working as an agent for S.H.I.E.L.D., the vaguely covert government agency charged with protecting the world from apocalyptic threats under the watchful eye of director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), recently defrosted super-soldier Steve Rodgers (Chris Evans) is cheerfully content to fight bad guys alongside former KGB agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) until he discovers that things may not be as simple and cut-and-dried as they seem. Specifically, he is informed of the existence of Project Insight, a program hurriedly put into action after the cataclysmic events of New York that involves launching three newly developed Helicarriers, enormous gunships into the skies that will not only patrol from the air and take out any dangerous or subversive elements but can also predict future threats and neutralize them long before they can actually get around to doing anything. Fury insists that this is being done to protect cherished freedoms from attack but Steve is not so sure.

After finding himself locked out of his own system, Fury goes to the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., well-meaning liberal politician Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), and recommends delaying the go date for Project Insight until all the bugs can be worked out. Pierce agrees but shortly afterwards, Fury barely escapes an ambush with his life and while he manages to make it back to Steve's apartment, he barely manages to warn him not to trust anyone before he is taken out of the picture and Captain America now finds himself on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. agents ordered to bring him down. With only the help of Natasha and friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Steve sets out to uncover who is behind the attacks and the true purpose behind Project Insight. That its purpose is largely diabolical comes as little surprise to Steve--without giving it away, I can say that if it does come to fruition, the annual Purge will soon become a thing of the past. What does come as a surprise is how the plan dovetails with portions of his own past and if you want to keep them as a surprise until the proper time, do what you can to avoid the "Variety" review that once again cheerfully reveals all.

As anyone who has gone to the movies in the last few years can attest, there has been a seemingly never-ending string of superhero epics on display--so many, in fact, that even fans of the genre may occasionally find themselves nostalgia for that seemingly bygone era when Hollywood found it virtually impossible to get a Spider-Man film before the cameras. Although most have been financially successful enough to guarantee that the tide will not abate for a few more years at the very least, the artistic achievements of most of them have tended to land somewhere in the range between the instantly forgettable ("Iron Man 3") and the downright awful ("Thor: Whatever the Hell the Subtitle Was"). By those standards, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is ahead of most of the pack, if for no other reason than it appears that the producers took the criticisms of the previous "Captain America"--a film that was practically born to be described as "meh"--to heart and have done their best to construct a better movie this time around. While the results may not exactly reinvent the genre, it does lend a sense of solid craftsmanship that do often gets lost in the rush to dazzle kids and, more importantly, sell toys.

The screenplay by is a little more ambitious than usual in the way that it blends the usual superhero tropes with a nod to paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the Seventies like "The Parallax View" and "3 Days of the Condor" (which, of course, just happened to star none other than Robert Redford) while finding witty ways to deal with its discombobulated hero trying to come to grips with the wholly new world that he has awoken into with things like "WarGames" and Marvin Gaye's killer soundtrack to "Trouble Man" getting especially amusing shout-outs. It also makes the relatively daring decision to include some moments of actual character development, such as a nice moment involving Steve visiting his now-elderly love Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) in the hospital. As for the action scenes, co-directors Anthony & Joe Russo approach them in a clean and fluid manner that demonstrate an actual sense of spatial awareness while largely eschewing the whiplash editing style that has become the norm for this brand of high-octane filmmaking.

As Captain America, Chris Evans, an actor who has never really appealed to me in the past, is more appealing than ever before and finds a way of letting the character's uncynical decency shine through without turning him into a goody-goody cliche. On the other side of the table, Robert Redford--in what I believe is the first flat-out supporting role that he has taken on since first achieving superstar status--has fun skewering his off-screen persona as a leading Hollywood liberal as Pierce, a character who--Spoiler Alert!--may not be quite as noble as he initially seems. The rest of the cast--a mix of Marvel Universe regulars like Johansson, Jackson and Cobie Smulders and newcomers such as Mackie--all have fun with their roles as well, although it is slightly disquieting to note that while Johansson's turn as Black Widow is by far the least interesting of her recent string of killer performances in films like "Don Jon," "Her" and the upcoming "Under the Skin," it will almost certainly be seen by more people in its first weekend than the rest of them combined.

Despite all of this, however, I still cannot quite find my way towards fully recommending "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" because it never quite breaks through to the next level. The best superhero movies--I would like to shortlist the original "Superman," the Christopher Nolan Batman films and Ang Lee's glorious and still-misunderstood "Hulk"--are the ones that have managed to transcend their genre trappings and presented viewers with works as dramatically compelling as any straightforward narrative. This film, on the other hand, is never quite so ambitious and while the Russos' do an efficient enough job of putting it all together, it has a certain anonymous quality to it that keeps it earthbound when it should be soaring. (This is especially disappointing when you consider just how groundbreaking the Russos' have been in television with their work on such instant classic shows as "Arrested Development," "Happy Endings" and "Community," though fans of the latter will be pleased by an in-joke cameo.) Part of the problem is that since the film is a piece of the ever-sprawling Marvel multimedia universe (consisting of several individual series, the "Avengers" films and that "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." television show), the obligations that it has to maintain in terms of fitting in with everything else prevent it from completely going off on its own. The other part of the problem is that for all of its technical excellence, the big finale of crashing Helicarriers, crumbling buildings and fistfights over vast precipices goes on for far too long without bringing anything new to the table.

I hasten to add, however, that I am most likely in the minority and that most fans of superhero spectaculars will enjoy "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" a lot. I can't quite get around to recommending it but I will say that it is among the most entertaining films that I can't quite recommend that I have seen in some time. That said, there is just enough to it to have me actually looking forward to the idea of a third go-around and considering my oft-stated antipathy to the genre as a whole, that is a pretty significant achievement in and of itself.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=25849&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/04/14 08:03:41
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell awesome sequel 5 stars
2/14/15 zenny entertaining w/o having to see the other Marvel schlock 4 stars
1/29/15 Bents Enjoyable - exceeded expectations - an improvement on the 1st Cap movie 4 stars
10/02/14 Horror Lover Well- written and spectactular action sequences makes this one a winner. 4 stars
9/02/14 Dude Don't listen to the fanboys 3 stars
8/09/14 lee meh 4 stars
8/07/14 Albert Valentin Fantastic sequel with best A-list style action seen in years 5 stars
5/24/14 The king terrible cheesy comic book crap and overlong too 1 stars
5/22/14 KC Really enjoyed this Marvel installment! 5 stars
5/04/14 Usfdstrz Giambi japan and Brown both have degrees. The government took action to local authorities., 3 stars
5/03/14 Toni Peluso Really enjoyable... will have lots of impact on the Marvel Universe 4 stars
4/23/14 Avery Hemming The WInter Soldier was a worthy opponent for Captain America! 5 stars
4/20/14 Koitus I liked it. "Agents of Shiled" familiarity discounted it for me, though. 3 stars
4/10/14 KALUNAKIMO BEST COMIC BOOK SEQUEL SINCE "THE DARK KNIGHT"! CAN SPIDERMAN 2 AND NEXT XMEN TOP IT! 5 stars
4/09/14 mr.mike Best Marvel flick since Iron Man 1-4.5 stars. 4 stars
4/08/14 Heisenberg One of Marvel's best outings 5 stars
4/07/14 KingNeutron Well done but still falls short of Avengers. Some action was over the top but want 2c story 4 stars
4/07/14 glzcarl very good film. Gallman calls it well. 4 stars
4/07/14 Snoop Dopey Dogg Minority Report Retort 5 stars
4/06/14 Darkstar Freaking amazing! Liked it better than The Avengers 5 stars
4/05/14 Bob Dog I agree with turner. 1 stars
4/05/14 turner garbage garbage garbage 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  04-Apr-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 09-Sep-2014

UK
  26-Mar-2014 (12A)

Australia
  03-Apr-2014 (M)
  DVD: 09-Sep-2014




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