Captain America: The Winter Soldier, dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, wr. Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, based on Captain America by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby, st. Chris Evans, Scarlett Johannson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, Samuel L. Jackson
Remember after 9/11 how everyone said that Hollywood would have to seriously re-evaluate how terrorism is depicted on screen? Some even prophesized a complete re-working of how violence and action was approached. Never would the sight of a collapsing building exploding in flames ever fail to conjure memories of that unforgettable day again. Hollywood has always taken its cue from real-world events, but if post 9/11 Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that Hollywood doesn't so much respond to reality, but rather stares at it blankly like a dog that's just been shown a card trick, before proceeding to blithely go about its business.
And so, in this latest movie from the Marvel juggernaut, we have the second Captain America movie that finds the defrosted Steve Rogers (Evans) peeved at Nick Fury's latest S.H.I.E.L.D. initiative - the installation of three atmospheric stations designed to monitor everyone on Earth and preemptively eliminate any threats to world peace. Mass global surveillance in return for unwavering security. As a response to recent events, it's laid on so thick I was surprised Edward Snowden didn't cameo halfway through as a security guard Stan Lee-style (who does). Narrative twists and turns however mean that ultimately Captain America doesn't need to have the strength of its initial convictions and therefore is able to bail before things get too political.
It's true too that Evans makes for a dourer lead - there are no Starkisms here - but what the film lacks in warming and zingy one-liners it makes up in welcomingly sober tonality. Certainly the brawls between Rogers and the titular Winter Soldier are more violently visceral than in any Marvel movie gone before, and for once we have an antagonist whose fearsome presence doesn't crumble to dust once he's unmasked. There's able support too from Johannson as Natasha Romanoff, whose character gets a little more screentime and whose backstory is to be further uncovered in the upcoming Avengers: Age of Ultron, and in her own spin-off film after that. Redford makes a suitably hissable villain, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is at the centre of one of the film's most memorable set-pieces early on - a carjacking sequence that wouldn't feel out of place in a Michael Mann project.
Whether the whole franchise ever becomes anything more than merely the sum of all its constituent parts remains to be seen. In the meantime, chalk it up as one of the more successful superhero flicks.