Posted March 27, 2014 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Movies/TV

MOVIE REVIEW: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” hits the mark with chilling precision

Marvel Entertainment, Marvel Studios
Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford, Cobie Smulders, Emily VanCamp, Frank Grillo, and Toby Jones
Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo

Philippine Release Date: March 26, 2014
Runtime: 136 minutes (2 hours 16 minutes)
MTRCB Rating: PG

Three years ago, moviegoers were treated to a comic book-inspired WWII period piece about a young man with a heart that was way too big for the body he was born with. Determined to fight for his country and willing to dedicate his whole life to the cause, Steve Rogers proved himself worthy to be the first in a series of experiments intended to create an army of physically superior patriots. Due to unfortunate circumstances, he ended up being the only product of the project – Captain America, the epitome of human perfection. He led the American troops from one victory to another, charging into battle with an indestructible round shield – a fitting choice for a man sworn to defend those who could not defend themselves. He sacrificed himself to save the world from a disfigured, tyrannical madman, condemning himself to decades of imprisonment in an icy tomb. Thought by the world to be lost forever, he was revived decades later, waking up to a society that had long moved on without him. Almost immediately, he joined a ragtag team of heroes with unique abilities and pitched in to save the world once more, this time from an alien menace attempting to enslave all of humanity. Seeking to understand his place in this new world, he signed up with a global peacekeeping force, trying to be the good soldier he always thought he would live (and die) as.

The third film in Phase II of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (after “Iron Man 3” and “Thor: The Dark World”), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” shows us what the Sentinel of Liberty has been up to since the aftermath of the Battle of New York. With an updated uniform – a streamlined, basic design with no fancy colors – and his trusty shield, the Living Legend of World War II has been operating under the supervision of the global peacekeeping task force S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division).

However, Rogers continues to question his role in a world where black and white are no longer as distinguishable as they used to be seven decades ago. After a chain of shocking events throws the Captain headfirst into a network of secrets and lies, his already shaky world gets turned upside down. Circumstances force him to quickly team up with a fellow Avenger and a new ally, as mysterious new enemies rise to threaten the very foundations of world security.

Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is , in pretty much all aspects, a grounded, “non-superhero”-superhero masterpiece. It deviates from the technologically thrilling tales of Iron Man and the epic exploits of Thor, and also emphasizes Captain America’s unique place in the pantheon of the Avengers: a soldier and symbol who, as the pinnacle of humanity, carefully and consistently treads the line between “normal” and “godlike.”

Chris Evans totally and completely owns the role. His Rogers is as strong and uncompromising as ever, even in the face of insurmountable odds. It’s hard to believe that this is the same person who portrayed the goofy Human Torch in the “Fantastic Four” movies. Also, the Captain America we see here is incredibly spry, making short work of armed troops and even holding his own against expert hand-to-hand combatants and a cyborg assassin.

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” could have easily been called “Captain America and His Avenging Friends” instead, as this time around, he’s getting a little help from his friends. Scarlett Johansson delivers an impressive performance as the tough-as-nails Black Widow, while Anthony Mackie provides heart, humor, and heroics as the high-flying Falcon.

If you’ve seen the other Marvel movies, you know what to expect from Samuel L. Jackson and Cobie Smulders, who return as Nick Fury and Maria Hill. Truth be told, there are no real weak links in this picture in as far as acting is concerned. The Winter Soldier himself is cunning, efficient, and lethal, and while the casting probably gives away his true identity anyway, I’ll just limit my comments to saying that I could not think of anything blatantly wrong about this portrayal of the character.

A grounded, realistic film has no need for a lot of fancy special effects, but whatever’s present in this film is quite impressive. From the flying headquarters to the many secret facilities throughout the film, there are hardly any hiccups that are significant enough to break your suspension of disbelief. There’s plenty of shooting and action to go around, and there are no boring moments at all. Surprisingly, there’s a good bit of character development in here as well, particularly with the titular character, as he struggles to stay standing and keep fighting even after being thrown one terrible curveball after another.

The description “political thriller” really does fit the film to a T. With a plot that is arguably more engaging and much deeper than any of the other Marvel movies before it, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” carries a hefty story to go with all the heavy firepower and explosions. The dialogue is sharp without constantly resorting to witty one-liners; the humor in this film, while still present, is understandably kept to a minimum. While the extent to which the film succeeded in presenting a neutral statement on current real-world affairs (to allow the audience to make their own judgment calls) may be debatable to some, it certainly managed to create strong tension and conflict between two sides that both had valid, if not totally convincing, arguments.

In fact, my only major gripe in the film lies in the lead-up to the film’s resolution – it’s hard to believe that the “major” problem was resolved through something as simple as a ridiculously convenient engineering oversight. Still, the pros of this film certainly outweigh its tiny handful of cons and inconsistencies, and the “cool” factor is more than enough to wipe any “what the heck” looks from your face and replace them with a gleeful, geeky smile.

Oh, and speaking of geeky – no Marvel production is complete without Easter eggs here and there, and this particular film has PLENTY. In fact, I’m tempted to write an entirely new article annotating every single reference I managed to catch, and it’s taking all of my self-control to stop myself from pointing them out here. I will say this, though: one of the references – something that, to regular audiences, would be nothing more than a throwaway line – was… strangely satisfying.

Also, stay for the mid-credits scene AND the post-credits scene: yes, just like “Thor: The Dark World,” this film has two bonus sequences for patient moviegoers. One of them follows up on an important plot thread in the film, while the other… well, let’s just say that it will make you wish that you could magically make time pass faster, just so you could see the next few Marvel films immediately.

If you’re only planning to watch one film this weekend, make it this one. “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has an entire Helicarrier’s worth of explosions, espionage, and epic moments for both comic book enthusiasts and casual moviegoers alike, and serves as both a critical turning point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a new high bar that future comic book films should strive to surpass.

VERDICT: 9.5 out of 10 cyborg left arms

We salute MOR 101.9 for the special screening of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Mikael Angelo Francisco