Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Based on the Marvel comics series by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the story of Captain America uncovering a conspiracy involving the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization as he is also targeted by a mysterious assassin prompting him to face demons and new ideals about his new world. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the film has Captain America/Steve Rogers adjust to living in the 21st Century following the events in the 2012 film The Avengers as well as his past as Chris Evans reprises the role of Captain America. Also starring Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, and Robert Redford. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a rapturous and exhilarating film from Anthony and Joe Russo.
The film revolves around Steve Rogers working for S.H.I.E.L.D. as he copes with not just what he’s asked to do but also a world that is far more complicated once S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised by forces from within forcing Rogers to become a fugitive as well as being targeted by a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). There, Rogers is forced to realize that all of these ideas of keeping things in control have been compromised as he has very few allies he can count on such as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) who aids him in uncovering the mystery. It’s a film that explores the idea of what people are willing to do to avoid war and to keep people safe as someone like Rogers who lived during the time of World War II has a hard time trying to understand what S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to do as he questions what Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about these reasons to arm the world and keep them under heavy watch.
The film’s screenplay definitely plays into this world of conspiracies where Rogers would meet one of the heads of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) who is trying to get a project unveiled as he is an old friend of Fury where he questions Rogers about his own ideas and such. It is in that moment where the film’s second act comes to play where Rogers is on the run as the only people he can trust is Romanoff and a former USAF pararescueman in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) as the latter is a soldier that Rogers can relate to. When Rogers and Romanoff uncover more secrets about what has happened within S.H.I.E.L.D., it becomes clear that there’s elements of Rogers’ past that has come back to haunt him as well as the identity of the Winter Soldier which would only trouble Rogers. The eventual confrontation between Rogers and the Winter Soldier does come ahead in the third act but the stakes are much higher as it relates to what Rogers can do to make the world safer amidst the terror from within.
The film’s direction by Anthony and Joe Russo is definitely sprawling in terms of its action sequences and set pieces but the Russo Brothers know what to do when there’s a need for a break from the action. Much of it involves some inspired use of wide and medium shots where a lot of it is shot in location in Washington, D.C. plus locations in Cleveland and Long Beach, California. There’s also some close-ups as it plays to the drama along with some very key moments in the film as it relates to some of the things that Rogers would encounter that includes the eventual identity of the Winter Soldier. The usage of high camera angles, wide shots, and medium shots play into the sense of action that occurs as it’s very frenetic which plays to the sense of danger and no-holds-barred attitude that Rogers, Wilson, and Romanoff are facing.
There’s also elements of flashbacks that play into Rogers’ past as he is trying to hold on to ideals that he had grown up on where he knows that he need to hold on to them as it adds to the drama and elements of suspense. It’s climax where Rogers has to face the Winter Soldier is definitely gripping as it’s filled with massive set pieces where it adds to the sense of high stakes for Rogers and his need for people to believe in something all over again in a world that is very cynical and chaotic. Overall, the Russo brothers create a very intelligent yet engaging film about a hero dealing with his new surroundings and the need to keep his old ideals intact.
Cinematographer Trent Opaloch does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its use of low-key lights and sepia lighting schemes for some of its interiors to the usage of low-level lights for the exteriors set at night. Editors Jeffrey Ford and Matthew Schmidt do amazing work with the editing to create some unique fast-cutting styles to play into some of the fights and action scenes while slowing things down for some of the film‘s suspenseful and dramatic moments. Production designer Peter Wenham, with set decorator Leslie A. Pope and supervising art director Thomas Valentine, does brilliant work with the look of the S.H.I.E.L.D. building as well as the heli-carriers and the secret buildings where Rogers and Romanoff uncover a very dark secret. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly casual with the exception of Rogers’ Captain America uniform.
Visual effects supervisors Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill, and Dan Suduck do fantastic work with the visual effects from the look of the heli-carriers in the sky to design of some of the big action sequences as well as the look of a character from Rogers‘ past. Sound designers David Hughes, Shannon Mills, and Al Nelson, along with co-sound editor Daniel Laurie, do superb work with the sound in not just creating some unique sound effects but also in the way the sound adds to the sense of terror and suspense that occurs in the film. The film’s music by Henry Jackman is terrific for its mixture of bombast and lush orchestral pieces to play into the action and drama while music supervisor Dave Jordan brings in a couple of music pieces from Marvin Gaye and Harry James’ Orchestra.
The casting by Sarah Finn is great as it features some notable cameos that includes the obligatory cameo from Stan Lee plus small roles from Garry Shandling as Stern, Maximiliano Hernandez as S.H.I.E.L.D. official Jasper Sitwell, Danny Pudi as a S.H.I.E.L.D. technician, DC Pierson as an Apple store employee who helps Rogers and Romanoff, Gary Sinise as a Smithsonian narrator for a Captain America exhibit, Georges St. Pierre as a mercenary Rogers confronts early in the film, and as a trio of council members of the World Security Council are Chin Han, Alan Dale, and Bernard White. Other notable small roles include Jenny Agutter as a World Security Council member, Hayley Atwell in a brief but memorable appearance as Rogers’ old flame Peggy Carter, and Emily VanCamp as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent assigned to protect Rogers at his home. Frank Grillo is terrific as the S.H.I.E.L.D. strike-team commander in Brock Rumlow who is part of the conspiracy as he proves to be a formidable opponent that is willing to take down Rogers and his cohorts.
Toby Jones is superb in his brief but eerie performance as Dr. Arnim Zola whom Rogers had dealt with back in the 1940s as he would be a key figure into uncovering the mystery that Rogers would have to deal with. Cobie Smulders is fantastic as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill who is one of the few people that Rogers and Romanoff can trust as she would help them and Wilson uncover the mystery behind the conspiracy on S.H.I.E.L.D. Sebastian Stan is excellent as the mysterious Winter Soldier who is known for being a fearsome assassin that is willing to cause damage as it’s a very menacing and nearly-silent performance that is all about action rather than words. Anthony Mackie is brilliant as Sam Wilson/Falcon as a former pararescuer who befriends Rogers as he later helps him and Romanoff uncover the mystery while proving to be a formidable soldier that Fury needs. Robert Redford is amazing as Alexander Pierce as a senior official of S.H.I.E.L.D. who would be the one that would make Rogers a fugitive over secrets Rogers refused to divulge as he represents this man that was part of an old world order as he wants to start something new for the sake of maintaining control in the world.
Samuel L. Jackson is great as Nick Fury as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who is aware of Rogers’ reluctance about the ways of the world as he starts to question things himself where Jackson brings some humility to Fury who is forced to realize that his organization has been compromised. Scarlett Johansson is phenomenal as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow as this agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. who realizes what has been going on as she helps Rogers in trying to uncover the truth as Johansson brings some wit and a lot of ass-kicking into her role. Finally, there’s Chris Evans in a remarkable performance as Steve Rogers/Captain America who copes with not just the new rules of the world but also the conspiracy within S.H.I.E.L.D. as he tries to unravel its mystery as well as elements of his past as Evans brings in that very straightforward manner to someone who feels out of place in the world but with old-school values that still means something.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a dazzling and thrilling film from Anthony and Joe Russo that features great performances from Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. Not only is a blockbuster that entertains and enthralls but it’s also a film that is very smart and engages the audience into uncovering a lot of the suspense and intrigue that looms over the film. Especially with characters that audiences can root for as it has a lot of real-world ideas about the ways of the world. In the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a sensational film from Anthony and Joe Russo.
Marvel Phase One Films: Iron Man - The Incredible Hulk - Iron Man 2 - Thor - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers (2012 film)
Marvel Phase Two Films: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - Guardians of the Galaxy - The Avengers: Age of Ultron - Ant-Man
Marvel Phase Three Films: Captain America: Civil War - Doctor Strange - Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Spider-Man: Homecoming - (Thor: Ragnarok) - (Black Panther) - (The Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 1) - (The Avengers: Infinity War Pt. 2)
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