Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Arguably the best of the now-constant stream of Marvel Comics-inspired blockbusters, the biggest surprise here is that much of the fun comes from old-school filmmaking principles. It is fantasy, of course, but of a more believable kind than you might find when you are presented with, say, a mere mortal shooting arrows at galaxy-jumping aliens (yeah, that's you, Hawkeye).
Hence Captain America - as so fully realised by Chris Evans - beats up on bad guys but gets knocked around in the process and in the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) he finds a foe who more than meets his match. And the reason for that last fact will delight the brigade of Captain America fans out there, as it taps into one of the aspects that always added a touch of intrigue - even controversy - to the original comic series.
In fact there is an almost continuous stream of nods to Marvel's treasure trove of characters and to previous films in what the filmmakers have modestly called the "Marvel Cinematic Universe". If the idea is to keep the audience feeling almost personally involved with the characters, it works.
We catch up with the action a little further down the track from The Avengers (2012) and find Captain America twiddling his thumbs in Washington. The action comes soon enough though, with a rather dodgy plan for ensuring a form of global security and involving the emergence of the Captain's arch-enemy - or a form of him anyway.
So the filmmakers have tapped into modern-day questions about how governments protect us from the bad guys while also tapping into history by tracing the rise of terrorism right back to the second world war (even if it is Marvel's version of things as they were then).
There's some depth there - or you can just enjoy the pure and often joyous spectacle of a film that takes its lead from the riddles that fleshed out cold war-era thrillers. That the action seems so naturalistic is another bonus and we can only hope the sequels that will follow can keep such high standards up.
Extras: Cut the Check, A Look Inside Captain America's Battle Backgrounds, Steve Rogers' Notebook featurettes; deleted scenes; gag reel.