Directors Anthony and Joe Russo take over from Captain America: the First Avenger director Joe Johnston and come up with a unique, inspired and intelligent superhero film in an era where each new entry is required to deliver more bang for the buck. With 007 no longer having a monopoly on larger-than-life action films a special twist is required to keep the audiences coming back to this ever-widening genre. Think Brian DePalma’s use of Vanessa Redgrave as the mysterious “Max” in the 1996 Mission Impossible I (as exquisite as Anne Bancroft in 1993’s Malice) to bring a little cat and mouse intrigue into the over-the-top fireworks so necessary as part of the formula.
That Marvel has succeeded in taking its lesser heroes to the top – Captain America and Iron Man, specifically, is truly remarkable. While the Hulk and Captain America had TV movies (Cap getting the benefit of the immense Christopher Lee in one outing,) the Fantastic Four were not as embarrassed in public by the underground Roger Corman release of its film debut. Of course the two FF wide-release film vehicles fumbled badly, and the reboot seems headed in the same direction (Ben Affleck as Batman, anyone?) so treading on less-sacred ground makes for less of a risk. Well, now even lesser characters that we-who-love-Marvel always adored anyway – Dr. Strange and Sub-Mariner, won’t have the element of surprise in their favor. All Marvel characters are going to be received with the same amount of scrutiny.
This adventure works successfully because it employs, along with the Captain America mystique, the marvelous idea from Mad Magazine (dating back to 1961) – Spy vs Spy. Another 1960s idea (1966 to be exact) extracted from the Batman television series is at play here: the use of major film stars becoming part of comic book lore. Robert Redford and Gary Shandling (of all people; which one “of all people?” – BOTH!) appear in The Winter Soldier and the seriousness with which they bring to their respective roles hides the camp to make it a subconscious sort-of “tongue-in-cheek” – quite chic, actually.
In 1972 there was a documentary film, Winter Soldier, about the investigation into a darker aspect of the Vietnam war. The Washington Post noting ‘Winter Soldier’ is an important historical document, an eerily prescient antiwar plea and a dazzling example of filmmaking at its most iconographically potent. But at its best, it is the eloquent, unforgettable tale of profound moral reckoning.” Anne Hornaday
Which makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier new only in that it re-imagines many things from the past – as the Wachowski’s successfully did with the Matrix series – in such a way as to keep your attention and build the drama by balancing James Bond (and Sherlock Holmes’) stealth and sleuth with the immense extra-large combustion the Iron Man films deliver so successfully.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.