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Friday, April 4, 2014

The Bailey Review: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER


SYNOPSIS:
After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off assailants sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy—the Winter Soldier. 

REVIEW:

Rogers. Steve Rogers.

Two years after the events in The Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), now lives in Washington D.C. where he puts all other S.H.I.E.L.D. and military personnel to shame with his super strength and speed. One of these people is Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), an ex-paratrooper who was trained in special aerial combat with a secret wing pack only the military knew about. Right from the start, there is an instant friendship in these two men's common bond over seeing fallen brothers in combat. After a footrace around the Mall, Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), picks up Steve in a ride almost as sexy as she is to take him on a mission to recover a S.H.I.E.L.D. naval ship from Algerian pirates, led by George Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). This is where the tone for the rest of the movie is set.

Each character's combat styles are brilliantly displayed in some of the most brutal fight scenes in any Marvel film. It is violent, fun, creative, and exciting to see these characters displaying their full comic book potential on screen. After clearing the ship with the help of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team leader Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), the group heads back for a briefing with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) on Project Insight, a collection of three Helicarriers set up to gather information via spy satellites to stop threats before they start. 

In true spy fashion, this film becomes one about who and what to trust. Rumlow quickly becomes untrustworthy, and Nick Fury is gunned down before too long by a character known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), an uncompromising assassin with a metal arm, great speed and agility. And that rock star hair. Steve was the last one to be with Fury before he was gunned down, and Fury gave him a USB flash drive, telling him not to trust anyone. There was even a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent secretly assigned to protect the Captain as all this unfolded, Sharon Carter/Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp). And what happens right after Steve has this bloody heart to heart with Fury? Steve meets up with senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Don't trust him. He's far too handsome for his age.

Pierce asks the Captain for whatever information Fury gave to him. The Cap refuses and is made a target by the agency for not playing by their dirty rules. He makes a daring escape on his motorcycle and single-shieldedly takes down a weapons aircraft. It was almost as impressive as what Heimdall similarly did in Thor: The Dark World, but he was played by Idris Elba, so he automatically wins. Cap meets up with Natasha and they find that the information on the USB pinpoints a S.H.I.E.L.D. underground weapons bunker in New Jersey, which lies a bit too close to the training grounds of the military base, the same one where a scrawny Rogers hobbled through boot camp only seventy years prior.

Through a secret entranceway, they discover a large room of antiquated computer technology. On the screen pops up a facial image that resembles Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), the Swiss biochemist who worked alongside The Red Skull in the first Captain America movie. His conscience has been preserved in the technology. As if this movie didn't have enough Bond elements already, Zola reveals everything about HYDRA's history and plans to control the world before unsuccessfully killing Natasha and Steve in an explosion. Hopefully, Johnny Depp's character in Transcendence can tap into Zola's consciousness, figure out what he did wrong, and learns from his mistakes.

I don't want to give too much more of the film away, since so much of it deals with covert operations, trust, and character reveals. Everyone, including S.H.I.E.L.D. itself, has dark secrets and ties to organizations you wish it didn't. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the Avengers respond to what truths came to light during this film. 

I remember when I saw Iron Man in theaters, how unprepared I was to receive such an exciting film in a fantastic universe. The Avengers was the next film to give me that same level of excitement. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the third. It took everything great from the Marvel universe, everything great from Bond films, and everything great from martial art films and combined them into the best thrill ride this year. On top of that, everyone's performance was solid, right down to hostages who only had a line or two. This movie felt connected, with a clear vision of what it was trying to achieve, and it is an absolute must-see. Even people who might not be big fans of superhero movies, who I will never speak to as a result, will enjoy this film. It's also funny, charming, and touching at times. There's a great scene where Steve Rogers visits a now very old Peggy Carter and breathes a new life into her aging soul that is really remarkable to remind us how human Captain America is.

Anthony Mackie is the perfect addition to the Marvel universe as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon. I don't even think the movie said the name "Falcon" once, but it didn't matter. He made a great sidekick to the Captain both on and off the battlefield. Sebastian Stan really came out of his shell for this role. He had the widest range to cover as a character not in control of his own actions and coming to terms with his past, and I'm excited to see how he comes back in future installments. Robert Redford proved once again why he is a living legend. He doesn't play up a type. He just plays purpose. He justifies every move he makes, and there is a mix of power and fear in his eyes at all times that's really special to watch. It made me want to see him portray an actual Bond villain, someone so intellectual and organized, he would pose a very real threat in any situation.

What must be highlighted over everything, however, is the action. Yes and yes. From amazing car chase sequences, hand-to-hand combat, wrecks, explosions, aerial combat, and impressive stunts and wire work, this film stands above the rest. It is definitely the most adult of all the Marvel films in its sheer brutality, but the story itself is also a mature one in its unravelling, so it works. 

The movie is over two hours, but it is paced exceptionally well. Kudos to the directors Anthony and Joe Russo and to the editors who assembled roughly 2,500 shots so seamlessly. Stereo D, who has done most of Marvel's 3D post-conversion, once again turned out a crystal clean version of this film. This film has a lot of depth and movement, and the 3D is never distracting. 

Enjoy seeing this one in IMAX 3D with a group of friends. There will be plenty of fun moments to discuss as you're exiting the theater. Then go see it again with a different group. It definitely lives up to the hype surrounding it and really puts the pressure on Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel's next installment in Phase Two, to live up to these standards. 

I have the pleasure of being a member of the martial arts production team Thousand Pounds Action Company with James Young, the fight choreographer of this film who also was the stunt double for The Winter Soldier. Keeping with the Bond theme, in the words of every love-making Bond girl, this movie will make you say, "Oh, James...". I sat down with him and Aaron Toney, stunt double for Falcon, to conduct an on-screen interview discussing the film and spotlight these artists behind the action to the general public in a bigger way. That interview will be on this very site on April 14, so stay tuned!

This review was written by contributor Darren Bailey, actor and founding member of Thousand Pounds Action Company. Feel free to follow his personal adventures via Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to Thousand Pounds Action Company through Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

1 comment:

  1. "I remember when I saw Iron Man in theaters, how unprepared I was to receive such an exciting film in a fantastic universe. The Avengers was the next film to give me that same level of excitement. Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the third."

    This is all I needed to hear, this is a BOLD statement.
    and I will watch this movie at the cinema because of this.
    And I swear if I get disappointed like Captain America 1, I will...you don't know what I want to do with you.

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