A comic book film with real invention, humor, heart, and soul (not to mention a succession of action sequences that are second to none), Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Solider takes no prisoners and certainly represents a high water mark for the Avengers franchise since the original Iron Man movie. The tonal and narrative shift generated by this inspired sequel proves the studio is willing to take big risks in keeping its franchise characters vital and continually interesting, and this second Captain America movie should please lots of people (but especially those who come into it knowing none of its many surprises).
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 2 Hr. 16 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/09/2014
During a rather routine hostage rescue mission, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) recognizes that he’s heading a mission about which there are team members with their own agenda, and he doesn’t like it. A conversation with S.H.I.E.L.D. head Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) leaves him wondering if his ideals will have to be compromised if he continues to work with the agency to thwart evil around the globe. But Fury has bigger worries than Captain America. Unsettling forces from within the agency seem to be at work, and questioning Head of Operations for Project Insight Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) leaves him similarly dissatisfied and later confused when a major strike team bares down on Fury in the middle of busy city streets and attempts to take him out. Knowing the stalwart Captain America is the only one he can trust, Fury instructs him to get to the bottom of the conspiracy leaving Rogers with only a handful of people on whom he can rely: Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and soldier Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who will eventually become the Falcon.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Designed to meld the comic book action film with the conspiracy thrillers of an earlier era, the Christopher Markus-Stephen McFeely screenplay establishes fairly quickly the mistrust paramount in making this kind of genre film work smoothly. The surprises begin to pile up as more and more of the characters whom we originally thought to be the good guys truly aren’t, and each revelation leads to the movie’s major action set pieces which are all magnificently staged and shot by director siblings Anthony and Joe Russo. From the smooth-as-glass opening raid on the cargo ship carrying hostages where Steve and Natasha stealthily eliminate their foes to the later car chase, an elevator encounter (certain to be among the most talked about sequences in the movie and in the entire franchise), and the climactic showdown between the Captain and his arch rival (and seeming equal with the added benefit of a mechanized super arm) the Winter Soldier while three gargantuan helicarriers aim their guns on twenty million innocents, the excitement builds to peak levels within each of these scenes. And because Rogers fights with his body and his shield but generally without other weapons, the fight scenes are always very intriguing in his films. The screenwriters and directors attempt to make the identity of the Winter Soldier one of the big shocking reveals in the movie, but they do telegraph his identity a bit too hamfistedly for it to be a true surprise. Never fear, there are plenty of other unexpected events in the movie for first timers for that rather tepid revelation to be given a pass. And the film sets up next year’s Avengers sequel quite brilliantly as well as giving a new burst of propulsion to the TV offshoot Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which had been foundering prior to the release of this movie. The directors have also directed this movie with great attention to pacing; there's not a wasted moment, and its two-plus hour running time passes quickly.
Once again, Chris Evans is marvelously appealing as Captain America, and the movie actually spends quality time showing us his melancholy fish-out-of-water existence: living and trying to adapt in the present but with his heart and memories still longing for a simpler time. Scarlett Johansson likewise embodies a character filled with memories of her past but hers with regrets that her past can’t be forgotten. The two of them while assisted by amazing stunt doubles are clearly doing much of the action stuff and doing it wonderfully well. Robert Redford plays a central role in the conspiracy motif for the film, and his charisma and presence is such an asset for the character he’s portraying. Anthony Mackie is a stupendous addition to the heroes’ side as the Falcon with an earnestness and dedication to duty mixed with the sass and sturdiness needed for the job. His antithesis, Frank Grillo’s duplicitous Brock Rumlow, is also a memorable asset to the movie. Samuel L. Jackson continues to refine his Nick Fury as a man of many emotional colors (some of them hidden). From previous Marvel assignments, Cobie Smulders is as reliable as always, and Emily VanCamp joins the cast as a potential love interest down the line for Steve. Look for Stan Lee in a cameo as a guard at the Smithsonian who gets a nice laugh with one of his lines, and Sebastian Stan certainly establishes his Bucky Barnes character as one we’ll hear from again.
The film’s theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio is delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Color is wonderfully achieved and beautifully under control throughout with believable and appealing skin tones. Sharpness while generally excellent is sometimes toned down a touch to better mesh with the green screen environments where many scenes transpire. Black levels are very good but occasionally less than inky though shadow detail is never lacking. Contrast has been consistently maintained. The film has been divided into 18 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The film was also offered in theaters in a converted 3D release (and there is a 3D Blu-ray set available), but it was not sent for review.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix offers a perfect complement of quiet scenes with the thrilling and awesomely immersive action stuff that one expects from this kind of comic book thriller. Split effects make use of the expanded soundfield with continual pans across and through the soundstage as guns blaze, bombs explode, and as planes and the Falcon whoosh by. The LFE channel will also get an extensive workout with this aggressive mix. Henry Jackman's driving music gets the full surround treatment, and the dialogue has been well recorded and placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Audio Commentary: directors Anthony and Joe Russo and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely share the commentary track and do a great job not only imparting information about the writing and direction but also not talking across one another in doing it. Fans are certain to enjoy it.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
On the Front Line (10:11, HD): producer Kevin Feige, directors Joe and Anthony Russo, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, and the stunt persons for Evans and Johansson comment about the film’s big three action scenes set outdoors. Behind-the-scenes looks as they’re staged and shot aid in giving relevance to their comments.
On the Set with Anthony Mackie (1:55, HD): the actor is shown shooting action scenes with his infamous “cut the check” comment when they’re successfully completed.
Steve Rogers’ Notebook (2:26, HD): variations of Rogers’ notebook detailing cultural things he needs to catch up with in the modern world as changed for many different countries watching the movie are shown.
Deleted Scenes (3:36, HD): four scenes may be watched individually or in montage and with or without the directors’ commentary.
Gag Reel (2:37, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Season One.
The best Marvel entertainment since the original Iron Man film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a beautifully sustained action film filled with emotional content and lots of surprises. The Blu-ray offers wonderful picture and reference quality sound as well. Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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