Why Captain America Winter Soldier is Freakin' Awesome

Cap shows everyone exactly why he leads The Avengers

After months of eager anticipation, Deedsy and I finally got to see the latest in Marvel's Phase 2 films, Captain America Winter Soldier, at a midnight screening and let me tell you it was damn well worth the wait. In all honesty, it's pretty much taken the “Best Of” title for this Phase, as it's unlikely Guardians of the Galaxy will be able to pull something out that tops it, and it's safe to say that it could take the title for best Marvel film, period – with only The Avengers posing any real competition.

The basic plot of Cap 2 (as I will now refer to it) follows Cap, Black Widow, newcomer Falcon, and Nick Fury as S.H.I.E.L.D inexplicably comes under attack, forcing them to go on the run and figure out what is going on. It's an eclectic mix of political drama, spy thriller, character piece and explosive action flick that make it into one hell of a superhero extravaganza that is so near-perfectly realised that every minute is a genuine pleasure to watch. More, it simultaneously deals with fallout, tie-ins and nods from Captain America The First Avenger, The Avengers, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, whilst its own events will have major repercussions on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole, and does it with a panache that belies the complexities of such a challenge.

Cap's new S.H.I.E.L.D issue suit is sweeeeeeeet

So where do I start? And perhaps more importantly, how do I avoid spoilers? I can't really go into the plot any more than the basic logline type description above, so you'll just have to trust me that it's freakin' awesome, and worth waiting for. Instead, I'm going to start by talking about the characters. First up has to be the big man himself, Captain America. Chris Evans brings a real relate-able performance to the character – which, given he's from the WW2-era, is no mean feat – as the honest, honourable and all round bad ass warrior who struggles to find a place in a world he doesn't really know and rarely understands. He is the true linchpin here, and the very definition of leader, and is perhaps the most mature performance he's ever given. The only downside is that it makes the pain of knowing he's retiring after his Marvel contract expires in Phase 3 that much more poignant.

Scarlett Johansson reprises her role as Agent Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, and gets a surprising amount of screen-time and character development. She functions as Cap's partner throughout a lot of the flick, joining him on the run while they try to figure out who is attacking and hunting them. Her personal subplot is an extension of the one in The Avengers, with reference to her history as a KGB agent and the bad things she did, as well as how no one knows the real her; the ending leaves her with an interesting direction to take the character, and I can honestly see them doing something with that for a stand alone Black Widow film.

Newcomer Anthony Mackie is brilliant as Falcon

Anthony Mackie makes his Marvel debut here as Sam Wilson, aka Falcon, who comic book readers will recognise as not only the first black superhero, but Cap's long time sidekick/partner and fellow Avenger. This version draws mostly from the Ultimate Universe within the comics, just like the MCU does as a whole, and is so much stronger for it; I'd definitely say that they absolutely nailed the character in all areas, and he is a fantastic addition to the MCU that I look forward to seeing more of.

One of the more surprising performances was Sam Jackson as Nick Fury – not because of his acting abilities, which we all know are great, but because the character probably got more screen time and action here than he has in all previous instalments. Right from the get go, Fury is front and centre, and a major deal for the plot, and Jackson gets the rare opportunity to flex all aspects of his acting range. Plus, he gets to really show just how much of a BAMF he really is.

Sam Jackson's Nicky Fury gets more involved than he's ever been

The last two I'm going to talk about are Robert Redford and Sebastian Stan, who play Alexander Pierce and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier. The former needs no elaborate description, suffice it to say that his mere presence really anchors the films political drama/spy thriller tones. The latter puts in a performance that I would say is only topped in the villain department by Hiddleston's Loki, and only maybe matched by Weaving's Red Skull, both of which have had a lot more to work with in terms of screen time/dialogue. Stan's Winter Soldier is chilling, badass, intimidating and even conflicted – for those that know the comic run the film takes its name from, you'll be happy to know he nails both the character and the relationship with Cap.

Actually, I think I should mention another character here (so I lied, sue me), as it is the ONLY issue I had with the film in any way – Hawkeye, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Given the plot, I felt this would have been a perfect film to feature the criminally underused character in, and it was a real shame to see him absent from it. The worst part about it, however, is that there isn't even a mention – a throwaway line that just explains his absence would have assuaged any and all concerns with this little nit pick, but we didn't even get that. We did get a really, REALLY cool casual name drop that hints at a future character inclusion, though, but I'll let you experience that yourself.

The Winter Soldier is a truly fantastic villain

So I've managed to fill this non-spoiler review up pretty well just looking at the cast and characters so far, so I'm going to start wrapping things up by talking about the action; in a word, it's outstanding. There's a wide range of mind-blowing action sequences, from stealth takedowns that Sam Fisher would be proud of, to brutal CQC fights, to mental gun battles, to epic aerial chases, this film has it all, and it's all shot in a truly visceral way. Caps own fighting style has developed since Cap 1 and even The Avengers, and he truly comes into his own as a superhero – particularly with the use of his shield, which is now a supremely deadly yet elegant weapon in the hands of a true master.

And finally, no review of a Marvel film would be complete with out talking about the post credits scenes. If you're going to view it, make sure you stay till right till the very end to get both – as is tradition, the longer, MCU focused clip happens between the animated credits and the scrolling, whereas the specific film related mini clip is right at the end. Whilst nothing mind blowing was (or is ever) revealed during the mini clip, the major clip typically has massive tie ins to what is going on in the MCU, and this one is the most amazing yet – I absolutely freaked out. In fact, when the film ended I was pondering whether to give it a 9 or a 10 (with it really boiling down to just how much the lack of Hawkeye was an issue) but as soon as I saw the bonus scene, I immediately decided on a 10. Make sure you watch it.

All in all, this is a fantastic film, and easily one of – if not the – top film currently out for the MCU. It is, if you'll forgive the pun, a true Marvel to watch.

Final Score: 10/10

This has been Blacksmith, writing for The Awesome Update.

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