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CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

★★★★

A NEW SUPERHERO CLASSIC ON BLU-RAY

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By Daniel Lammin
21st August 2014
After first stepping onto our screens in stellar first installment 'The First Avenger' (2011) before being relegated to nothing more than a redundant excuse for puns in ‘The Avengers’ (2012), Captain America as realised by Chris Evans returns. However, unlike his fellow Avengers, all of whose second and third outings have been less than impressive, his latest film, ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ is one of those rare jewels - a sequel as good, if not better, than the already impressive first. In a time when superhero films have begun to oversaturate our screens, Marvel Studios have given us something fresh, exciting and worthy of celebration.

Still coming to grips with the 21st century, Steve Rogers A.K.A. Captain America (Chris Evans) is forced to go on the run when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is attacked and the blame is placed on him. With Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) in tow, Rogers tries to uncover a conspiracy that pits him against an old enemy and introduces him to a mysterious new foe: the equally superhuman Winter Soldier.

‘The First Avenger’ totally embraced its 1940s setting and created a wonderful film full of wit and energy and colour. For ‘The Winter Soldier’ however, directors Anthony and Joe Russo have looked to the classic spy thrillers of the 70s to create something just as unique, a tightly-constructed thriller that relies on narrative twists and turns and beautifully executed action sequences, rather than the operatic superhero tropes we would expect. The Russos are better known for their television comedy work on ‘Arrested Development’ and ‘Community’, but they exert a tight directorial hand over very different material here, demonstrating a great confidence with the bigger canvas and complex tone. It helps that they have a great screenplay to work with from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Where the complex narrative could have fallen into cliché or taken easier ways out of situations, the screenplay circumnavigates them with genuine surprises, as well as furthering the development of the characters and offering a surprisingly emotional third act that pushes Captain America further than he has before. Chris Evans is given more to play with here than he was in ‘The Avengers’ and takes full advantage of that, refusing to let his All-American good looks do the work. In the hands of a lesser actor, Steve Rogers wouldn't be as wonderful a character as he is. Johansson is also surprisingly great as Black Widow, particularly with her palatable on-screen chemistry with Evans. Jackson is also finally given something to do in this film as opposed to just standing there and looking surly, and Anthony Mackie is a terrific addition to the cast.

SWITCH: 'CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER' TRAILER

I will admit to being skeptical of the Marvel franchise, finding it often muddled and hopelessly messy, but 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' left me ecstatically surprised. Somehow, it manages to be artistically satisfying as well as being immensely entertaining. Marvel took a punt on the Russo Brothers, and it has paid off beautifully. While the other threads of the Marvel franchise seem to be coming apart, Captain America is only getting stronger and stronger, and coupled with the glorious 'Guardians of the Galaxy', 'The Winter Soldier' gives hope that Marvel might actually be a bit more daring than we expected.

PICTURE & SOUND
Of course, ‘The Winter Soldier’ has been given a stunning 1080p 2.35:1 transfer, as expected for a film with such high production values. The film has a steely blue look to it, which has been preserved here and looks beautiful in high definition, with excellent detail and colour balance throughout. It also has a thunderous DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that kicks into full gear during the thrilling action sequences. Overall, a practically perfect video and audio presentation.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have looked to the classic spy thrillers of the 70s to create something unique.

SPECIAL FEATURES
The Marvel films aren't known for offering impressive special features, and the same can be said here, though what we have is still quality material. A series of featurettes cover the making of the film and some of the on-set jokes such as Rogers’ notebook list that was different depending on what country the film was being seen in (the list featured in the film on this disc is the U.S. version). There are also a number of deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary, the perfunctory gag reel and an energetic commentary with the directors and the writers. It’s not much, and further proof that Disney doesn't care too much about the extra material it releases with its films, but what we have is at least interesting.

FAST FACTS
RELEASE DATE: 20/08/2014
RUN TIME: 2h 16m
CAST: Chris Evans
Sebastian Stan
Samuel L. Jackson
DIRECTORS: Anthony Russo
Joe Russo
WRITERS: Christopher Markus
Stephen McFeely
PRODUCER: Kevin Feige
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