Saturday, September 27, 2014

In short: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

By now, I’m actually going into Marvel productions banking on them being at least entertaining and generally non-stupid, but I think I’m going to adjust my attitude and will from now on bank on them being really good, and can still be positively surprised when they turn out like The Winter Soldier, which is to say pretty darn great.

Of course, seeing that it’s highly influenced by Ed Brubaker’s excellent run on the comics, the last decade or so of mainstream-yet-intelligent spy movies like the first three Bourne films and the Daniel Craig James Bonds, 70s conspiracy thrillers, and – quite obviously if you look at the fights – martial arts and action cinema from all around the world (The Raid quite heavily comes to mind), and does all the right things with a character that should by all rights be a horrible jingoistic mess but nearly never becomes one, Winter Soldier seems a bit made for me. Particularly because it uses the synergy of the already established Marvel movie universe very well without running into the trap of thinking this synergy replaces the actual plotting, and knows that Captain America in this century is very much a character belonging into an ensemble. By all rights, this should be called “Captain America, Black Widow & The Falcon: The Winter Soldier”, but then, that’d be a really unwieldy title. The film really does a lot of cool and interesting things with Natasha and Sam, thanks to a script that knows how to write the personal stuff into the explosions, and actors in Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie who have proven themselves highly adept at the particular acting style you need to apply in blockbuster cinema.

As a pinko commie, I’m also quite happy with the film’s politics, not because I perfectly agree with them (I’m not the kind of pinko commie who needs that to appreciate a film, fortunately), but because they are as coherent as can be expected in a film genre that can do subtlety only to a degree, and are a perfect fit for a Captain America film in 2014 that wants to stay true to the character’s origins of Hitler-punching and taking the promise of America by its word.

All these elements, as well as Chris Evans’s still note-perfect performance and many a nice nod to established comic characters, I mostly expected (or at least would have bet minor amounts of money on). What I didn’t expect is that Anthony and Joe Russo, both directors with mainly experience in sitcoms (even though one of them is the sainted and seemingly indestructible Community), were this great as action directors, with so many propulsive action sequences that also just happen to be often really cleverly and beautifully choreographed there should by all rights be not enough breath in anyone watching left to complain about them as “empty spectacle”. Which of course they aren’t – as in all good action movies, these action scenes are actually saying a lot of things about the characters the dialogue scenes don’t, all the time not just working to drive the film forward, but working as a physical connection between theme, characters and plot.

Needless to say, I’m very, very happy with the resulting movie.

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