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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

POSTER ART
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FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Chris Evans
Samuel L. Jackson
Scarlett Johansson
Anthony Mackie
Robert Redford
Sebastian Stan
Frank Grillo.
Directors
Anthony Russo
Joe Russo.
Screenwriters
Running Time
136 minutes

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Shield versus S.H.I.E.L.D.


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Plot
Thawed-out war hero Steve Rogers (Evans) is ever more uneasy about his affiliation with deep-spy network S.H.I.E.L.D.. And when the organisation turns on him, he uncovers a horrifying conspiracy.


Review
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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There is something pleasingly, and no doubt deliberately, ironic in Marvel Studios' flag-wearing hero fronting its most subversive movie yet. Not that writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus are being subtle about it. "You're holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection," Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) early on. During the very same dialogue he says, "I thought the punishment usually came after the crime," and - just in case we hadn't got the point - "This isn't freedom, this is fear." Even so, what we have here is the key to Captain America's real appeal, the answer to any criticism that he's just a stiff-necked, steroidal boy scout. As a 95 year-old thirtysomething with an early-'40s value set in War-On-Terror America, he is less the USA's poster boy than its most steadfast foil. Something co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo (Welcome To Collinwood) clearly relish getting their indie-cred teeth into on a blockbuster scale.

Post-Chitauri invasion, Rogers is a useful asset for shady superspy network S.H.I.E.L.D., but also a pain in the ass. During a great opening set-piece in which Rogers, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and a squad of S.H.I.E.L.D. goons take out a crew of French/Algerian pirates, our blond hero complains of being forced to play "Fury's caretaker". This is not what he signed up for. This is not what America should be doing. History has seen the nation gradually diminished from world's saviour, to world's policeman, to a "caretaker" over the course of decades. For Rogers the moral decline appears instantaneous, and it rankles intensely. There are then indirect tributes to Edward Snowden's whistleblowing and shades of the NSA privacy-invasion scandal. Pretty bold stuff to be sneaking under the canvas of this primary-coloured marquee.

It's uncertain how much any of it will land with the film's young, core audience, although this does feel like Marvel's most 'mature' picture yet, an admirable risk to take. It is certainly the studio's most talky and plotty, and the big wink that is the casting of Robert Redford (who, by the way, would have been ideal Cap casting in the '70s) as S.H.I.E.L.D. suit Alexander Pierce suggests 1975's Three Days Of The Condor as its most obvious inspiration. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) is in there too, for sure. But, as Rogers' journey manhandles him out into the cold and makes him a hoodie-wearing renegade advised to "trust nobody" and targeted by a similarly empowered super-agent (the titular Winter Soldier), the influence of the Bourne trilogy weighs down, too - the Russos even going so far as to steal a famous Bourne shot directly towards the film's end.

The action and violence are the most grounded we've seen in a Marvel film. The First Avenger, with its steampunk-laser weirdness and numbing, never-ending montages, felt dull and insulated. Iron Man, Thor and Hulk all dodge (or brush off) bullets via their self-evident fantastical/sci-fi trimmings. But, apart from the fact that he lobs a big metal Frisbee around and has been artificially pumped to the very peak of attainable physical fitness, the Captain is operating on the same plane as Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan and James Bond. He even throws a knife at someone.

Evans has settled comfortably into the title role, and bolsters its appeal with a precise charm, never letting you forget that the heart of a regular and sincere wimp beats beneath that rock-sculpted chest. He spends much of the film working up a will-they-could-they? partnership with Johansson's still-sparky Black Widow, who enjoys her greatest chunk of Marvel screen time yet. It's an engaging double act. And when he isn't ticking off Fury, running righteous rings around the cycloptic boss' persistent, end-justifies-means ambivalence, he's fostering a whole new buddyship with Anthony Mackie's likable veteran support-group organiser Sam Wilson.

And then the wings pop out. Wilson, after all, is also The Falcon. Not just any ex-forces guy, but someone with secret impossi-tech that enables him to flap about like a supersonic swift. To chide this development as silly in a comic-book movie may be like spitting out a jellybean for tasting of chemicals, but even so, after the Russos' first-rate work setting up a smart, Washington, D.C.-based conspiracy thriller, it feels like a backstep into formula. And The Falcon does look naff: Three Days Of The Condor giving way to Condorman.

Inexorably, the whole enterprise drifts into business as usual. The more the story refers back to the first Captain America film, the less interesting it becomes - its subversiveness becomes subverted. The twists are easy to figure, and certain reveals are just stamp-your-foot hoary. Plus, given the constant reminders that this is just one adventure within the greater Marvelverse, you can't help but be distracted by one, nagging question: wouldn't Tony Stark have something to say about all this? Especially when those huge, deadly S.H.I.E.L.D. machines - now propelled by his technology - launch into the sky.

Speaking of which, The Winter Soldier is the third of the last four Marvel movies to take its final-act set-piece into American airspace and feature a lot of shiny CG things whizzing around amid orange-blossom detonations. In Avengers Assemble it was exhilarating. In Iron Man 3 it was acceptable. Now it's a case of, "This again? Really guys?" There's also an earlier action gag, in which the Captain single-handedly takes down an aircraft on a bridge, that is almost a beat-for-beat repeat of Heimdall's dark-elf ship takedown on the Bifrost in Thor: The Dark World - and it, too, feels like a last-minute, studio-led insertion.

None of this is ruinous, though. The Winter Soldier does go out on an intriguing note, which should have big repercussions on future Earthbound Marvel stories. Captain America is an interesting character, arguably the most interesting of the Avengers, the one with the greatest thematic scope. And that can only bode well for his next solo, hopefully Helicarrier-free, outing.


Verdict
It may climax with an overly formulaic splurge, but The Winter Soldier benefits from an old-school-thriller tone that, for its first half at least, distinguishes it from its more obviously superheroic Marvel cousins.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Empire Star Rating

RE: Best Marvel film

Yep damn good film ... More

Posted by SQUATCH at 13:55, 04 July 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Thoroughly enjoyed this. Alongside Avengers, this is a Marvel film I want to watch more than once. Nice to have a good-guy, boy-scout superhero again. Cap's straightfaced "I'm always honest" reminded me of Christopher Reeve's "Lois, I never lie". ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ryan_D_Bell at 17:49, 21 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Very much enjoyed CA2, probably my favourite entry of the solo Marvel movies yet. ... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 12:19, 02 May 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

This was okay, not as exciting or as much fun as the original movie or indeed as witty. It was a reasonable attempt to build the Marvel myths but we could have had a bit more character for Captain America who is my personal favourite of The Avengers. I thought there was a big twist as I actually fell for it but it obviously turns out to be false, but hey oh it was a three star movie. And always glad to see Robert Redford get his comeuppance as I've always thought he was overrated!!! ... More

Posted by Private Hudson at 22:12, 28 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

L: kathryn2 Was anyone else slightly disappointed when Jenny Agutter's character turned out to be Black Widow? I was all enny Agutter's a BADASS!!hen was Widow after all...uote] Me too - I started thinking, maybe she was Peggy Carter's daughter or something...but no. I thoroughly enjoyed this film as the best Marvel film to date. Just seeing Cap expertly sling his shield about in the opening mission had me grinning like a maniac. I was expecting to hate Falcon but ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by FoximusPrime at 11:18, 28 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: A Bit Different (Almost)

Nice to see the online review has changed Dan Jolin's hilarious mishearing of the line 'Fury's caretaker' from the print version. 'Furious caretaker' indeed. appy07.gif] ... More

Posted by BudBaxter at 11:21, 25 April 2014 | Report This Post


A Bit Different (Almost)

Watched this last night - really enjoyed it. Loved the grounded tone and conspiracy thriller, Bourne-style atmosphere. Some great action scenes (with Nick Fury getting one of the best). It did start to go a bit downhill once they discovered the computer room in the bunker - I was a little disappointed once the enemy were revealed. Some of the action scenes really did stretch credibility (would Rogers really have survived the fall from that elevator?!) and The Falcon was both naff and needless. A... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Hillsman at 10:50, 25 April 2014 | Report This Post


Garbage

Marvel's lost the plot since Iron Man 2. Disney's influence? I walked out halfway thru from total boredom. No more pennies from me mofos. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jonny24 at 23:43, 16 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

L: superdan L: kathryn2 Was anyone else slightly disappointed when Jenny Agutter's character turned out to be Black Widow? I was all enny Agutter's a BADASS!!hen was Widow after all...uote] Yep, me too. It was pretty much the first thing I said to the people I watched it with after. I thought for a moment there was going to be a cool thing where it turned out that all the council were actually ninja-dangerous and just hid it, but no. Just an MI:2 face change. sp; Yea... More

Posted by DONOVAN KURTWOOD at 13:41, 16 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

What is this Captain America The Winter Soldier Costume and jacket, This ne store said it's 100% genuine leather jacket, is it right ?? ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Samuelmarth at 13:17, 16 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

L: kathryn2 Was anyone else slightly disappointed when Jenny Agutter's character turned out to be Black Widow? I was all enny Agutter's a BADASS!!hen was Widow after all...uote] Yep, me too. It was pretty much the first thing I said to the people I watched it with after. I thought for a moment there was going to be a cool thing where it turned out that all the council were actually ninja-dangerous and just hid it, but no. Just an MI:2 face change. ... More

Posted by superdan at 07:50, 16 April 2014 | Report This Post


GREAT Action Thriller from MARVEL!!!

A HUGE improvement on the original movie with a great espionage plot concerning the heart of the S.H.E.L.D Organisation. It's vastly entertaining stuff as we watch our Capitan (Chris Evans) put to the test through some great action set pieces and a new mysterious foe,...the metal armed "Winter Soldier". It's thrilling stuff as we watch Capitan undercover a huge conspiracy involving Senior S.H.I.E.L.D Official Alexander Pierce ( Robert Redford in good form here) and his sinister plans to b... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 22:28, 15 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

one else slightly disappointed when Jenny Agutter's character turned out to be Black Widow? I was all 'Yes! Jenny Agutter's a BADASS!!' and then 'oh, it was Widow after all...' eah, it was like the kitchen fight between the Butler and the Henchman in The Living Daylights. It would have been an awesome "It's not just the heroes who can kick ass!" moment ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 22:02, 15 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

one else slightly disappointed when Jenny Agutter's character turned out to be Black Widow? I was all 'Yes! Jenny Agutter's a BADASS!!' and then 'oh, it was Widow after all...' was. That was a potentially awesome out of left field moment, which became slightly "meh" on the reveal. ... More

Posted by Scruffybobby at 20:59, 15 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

: Best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far in my opinion. It's got action, plot and intrigue by the boat load. More like this please Marvel. On a related note Captain America is such an unholy bad-ass in this all I could do for most of the film was giggle like a little girl whenever he was laying the smackdown on some poor mope. That is all. 4.5/5 y sentiments exactly. Seen this twice now and it's definitely my favourite entry into the stand-alone movies of the Ma... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 20:45, 15 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Nerdy question that popped into my head yesterday, is Peter Parker on the project Insight list? ... More

Posted by Stuntgoat at 15:50, 14 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

I was of a similar opinion and probably enjoyed this the most of all the Marvel films to date. ... More

Posted by sanchia at 11:36, 13 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

What a turnaround, although I liked Evans as Cap I found The First Avenger to be a really stale and dull affair overall but this is surely the best marvel film to date and dare I say it ? Even better than Avengers ??? ... More

Posted by Dirk Miggler at 20:47, 11 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far in my opinion. It's got action, plot and intrigue by the boat load. More like this please Marvel. On a related note Captain America is such an unholy bad-ass in this all I could do for most of the film was giggle like a little girl whenever he was laying the smackdown on some poor mope. That is all. 4.5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 19:05, 10 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Yes, gotta love Jenny Agutter :). I enjoyed this movie, it was a very nice surprise. The first half of the film I found even better than the second one with its more formulaic showdown. Looking forward to how this story is going to continue. On a side-note, I was not too impressed with Robert Redford but maybe I am the only one...? On another side-note, for my taste Chris Evans is now almost too muscular. He put on more muscles compared to Avengers, right? On a third side-no... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Pandora at 12:51, 09 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Was anyone else slightly disappointed when Jenny Agutter's character turned out to be Black Widow? I was all enny Agutter's a BADASS!!hen was Widow after all... ... More

Posted by kathryn2 at 12:11, 09 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, is continuing to live in Washington, D.C. and work for espionage agency SHIELD, but struggles to adapt to contemporary society. Rogers is called to help save a SHIELD vessel from Algerian pirates, and succeeds, but finds Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow, extracting data from the ship’s computers on Nick Fury’s orders, something Cap wasn’t briefed on. Oddly unable to crack the data, Nick is ambushed by assailants disguised as police officers and a mysterious a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 20:10, 08 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

Really enjoyed this.Terrific action and a great elaborate plot ( Except that the reveal of who the Winter Soldier wont surprise anybody except Cap ). The ending battle did drag on a bit though and im wondering whether those who moaned about Man Of Steels destruction and length of the Supes vs Zod fight will have similar complaints here ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cool Breeze at 20:06, 08 April 2014 | Report This Post


RE: Best Marvel film

This has the same plotline as GI Joe 2. ... More

Posted by Rgirvan44 at 16:36, 08 April 2014 | Report This Post


Best Marvel film

What a great movie. The reason this is so great is it nailed Captain America's fighting style that is portrayed in the comic books. "I've never seen anyone move like that ", is a common comment, and in Avengers was surely lacking. In Winter Soldier, Cap moves like liquid, impossible fast, powerful and precise. I have read all of the comic books (in the world), and this film nailed the ambiance of the Winter Soldier plot, and dipped into Civil War, where Shield and Cap were at war. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danielthompson99 at 15:20, 07 April 2014 | Report This Post


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