Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / The Falcon
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill
Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Agent 13
Frank Grillo as Brock Rumlow / Crossbones
Callan Mulvey as Jack Rollins
Toby Jones as Arnim Zola
Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
Cool fight scenes, fun new characters, and the return of familiar favorites make "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" a fun film that Marvel fans of all ages will enjoy.
Despite Captain America's triumphant return to the modern world and welcome by a grateful nation, Steve Rogers is still trying to find his place in life. His friends are long dead or elderly, he has no love life, and he still is playing catch up with 70 years of pop culture. He immerses himself in work as a S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, but he is increasingly finding himself questioning the missions.
After a mission to stop pirates from taking a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship, Cap confronts Nick Fury with his concerns. It turns out that his worries were well-founded as Fury reveals a S.H.I.E.L.D. initiative to take out threats both present and future using three new, super-advanced helicarriers. The ĎBig Brotherí approach does not make Rogers at all happy, but when Fury starts having his own concerns about security, an assassination attempt is made on his life by a mysterious enemy known only as "The Winter Soldier."
After evidence is fabricated to make Fury look like a traitor, S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Alexander Pierce orders all of Furyís allies rounded up. Rogers is forced to go on the run without knowing who he can trust. And if he hopes to discover who is behind the conspiracy, he's going to have to track down The Winter Soldier.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.
Marvel has another winner on its hands with "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Rather than hitting a sophomore slump with this sequel, they ramp everything up beyond the previous film. The action is more intense, the effects are bigger, and there are more ties to the overall Marvel Universe. It's a very satisfying sequel, and one of the interesting things about it is that it's almost a new genre from the previous film. While the original "Captain America" had more comic book villains, pulp adventure, and a period setting, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" feels more like a cross between "The Bourne Identity," a James Bond movie, and a political thriller with a distinct Marvel comic book influence. The end product is a film that holds its own with any modern spy thriller... while having the star dressed as a flag and the co-star dressed as a bird man.
One of my favorite things in this sequel is the action. The rules are laid down in the opening action scene where Captain America fights pirates on a hijacked ship. He brutally takes them down with incredible speed and it's quite impressive. And each of the fight scenes incorporates Cap's shield in a way that it makes sense that he carries it around all the time. The shield is practically a sidekick. They also manage to make "Batroc the Leaper," an admittedly silly comic book villain, look incredibly cool and a legitimate threat to Cap. Besides the amazing stunt choreography, there's an impressive car chase involving Nick Fury. It features dozens of wrecked cars, cool spy gadgets, and a brutal intensity that will have you holding your breath. A car chase hasn't been this well choreographed in a long time.
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson return in their respective roles and all continue to turn in excellent performances. They've hinted enough at Black Widow's dark past that I'm now ready to see a movie featuring just her. Hayley Atwell also briefly returns as an elderly Peggy Carter in one of the film's most poignant scenes. New to the cast is Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. Mackie manages to make what was otherwise a C or D grade Marvel superhero into a major highlight of this film. Giving him a connection with Rogers as a fellow war veteran was a brilliant touch that also makes him relevant to today's world. I also love the fact that Falcon is a cool character for young black kids to look up to as a hero. Robert Redford is also good as Alexander Pierce. He brings a lot of authority to the role and as soon as he appears on the screen, we have no question that he would be running S.H.I.E.L.D. His character has a few twists along the way that make him all the more interesting. Fans of "Community" will also want to be on the lookout for a cameo by Danny Pudi. That shouldn't be a surprise considering directors Anthony and Joe Russo also worked on the TV series with him.
Fans of the comic books are going to be very happy with all of the references that were placed just for them. We briefly meet Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter, Cap's future love interest (though it is never mentioned that she's related to Peggy Carter in the movie). We meet the early incarnation of Crossbones with Frank Grillo, who plays Brock Rumlow. He's a major future villain as well. Also look for a throw away reference to Dr. Strange, the return of Garry Shandling as Senator Stern, and more.
And yes, stay for TWO bonus scenes during the credits. One, directed by Joss Whedon, sets up "Avengers: Age of Ultron" while another hints at what we might expect in "Captain America 3."
What Didn't Work:
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a great film, but I did have some nitpicks. I wish they had spent a little more time on the "man out of time" aspect of Cap's character. We get a little bit of it with his reunion with Peggy, a look at his apartment, and a fantastic glimpse of his list of pop culture he must catch up on (including "Star Wars"). But otherwise, itís briefly touched upon and they move on.
I'm also a bit tired of the whole "corrupt spy organization" story. James Bond fought his bosses in those films. Jason Bourne fought his organization in those movies. You could quickly rattle off a bunch of other similar themes. The post 9/11, anti-spying cautionary tale has been well explored. Let's venture into new territory.
Matters aren't helped by the fact that the main villain's plan doesn't seem to hold up well under scrutiny. I can't get into it here without getting into spoilers, but suffice it to say that his plan to rule the world doesn't seem that feasible.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" it makes extensive use of the dreaded "shaky cam." A lot of the brilliant fight choreography is covered up by the camera shaking so much that the picture is nothing but a blur. And my usual gripe about the camera shaking while people are simply sitting in a room talking happens here as well. In fact, it is so shaky that I donít see how you can get any perceivable 3D effect for most of the movie. I think you may be wasting your money watching this in 3D. (I saw it in 2D.)
The Bottom Line:
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a worthy sequel that both adults and children will enjoy. I'm really happy to see Marvel Studios continuing to turn out entertaining films.