Captain America: The Winter Soldier was better than it really had any right to be, delivering a satisfying spy thriller and modern action film. Though I am a big fan of Joe Johnston’s work (The Rocketeer is on my top 10 of all time favorite films) the first film felt a bit like it suffered from being overstuffed with foreshadowing for the Avengers, like Iron Man 2 before it. Not super memorable compared to that series of films but with a solid hero, it wasn’t clear how Captain America was going to mesh with a comic universe with demigods and crazy mystical artifacts. In his second outing, would Cap be able to stand on his own?
Thankfully, the answer to that is YES! Instead of being a retread of the style and story of the first movie, the second Captain America film is a serious espionage film in the vein of a Bourne or Daniel Craig Bond film. A complex conspiracy threatens SHIELD and without getting into spoilers Captain America and Black Widow are the ones to try to tackle it, with some excellent buddy chemistry between Hemsworth and Johannsen. Even more than in the Avengers, Nick Fury and Black Widow feel like they have a strong reason to be there, with no superpowered heroes around to save the day. I was afraid that like in the Star Wars prequels, Sam Jackson would just be the guy who stands in front of monitors telling the heroes where to go.
Captain America also shows why he needs to be in the film, acting as the moral compass for the film-a morally uncomplicated and uncompromising man who you can latch onto in a situation where no-one else can be trusted.
The movie felt it’s length (three hours or so) once in a while, but was able to wring a lot of character development in those quiet moments between explosions. I’d highly recommend it to people who love the comics, or who get a charge out of the idea of Tom Clancy mixed with the Marvel universe.