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Film Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier


Captain America (Chris Evans), Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson and new recruit Falcon (Anthony Mackie) face a new foe in the form of the Winter Soldier as terrorist organisation Hydra rears its ugly head in the most unlikely of places.

Another week, another Marvel superhero flick. The genre is walking a very well worn path by this point and many are starting to feel a little bit numb to its formula. Captain America: The Winter Soldier could well have been the straw that broke this series’ back, but fortunately there’s enough new and interesting in there to ensure Marvel’s stock remains as high as ever.

Captain America: The First Avenger, Cap’s origin story, took place in World War II, but naturally (considering what happened at the end of that film and in Avengers Assemble) we’re now in a modern day setting. And we have modern day themes as well. The Winter Soldier examines themes of privacy, intrusion, drones, and other similar ideas that feel incredibly relevant when you take a glance at the news of today.

The problem with having a modern day setting is that it removes one of the key elements that made the first film work: the period World War II setting. That’s not to say this film doesn’t work, but it feels a little less unique.

However, despite its current themes and setting, the film actually feels more akin to a 1970s spy or espionage thriller, or even a Connery/Moore era James Bond film at times. Stick the Cap in a tuxedo and you’ve got yourself a Bond film. Apart from the guy who has massive metal wings and can fly everywhere, obviously.


That would be Sam Wilson, or Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie), who’s one of the new characters introduced in The Winter Soldier. Falcon is a decent addition and along with the inclusion of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow as a main character completes an interesting and dynamic central trio.

Then there’s the Winter Soldier himself as the film’s central villain (or is he?). One aspect of the past few Marvel films where they’ve dropped the ball is with their villains, in that they just aren’t that villainous. Both Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World featured very weak villains, but they’ve upped the game somewhat here. The Winter Soldier is both menacing and also has an air of mystery surrounding him which adds up to a much more threatening villain than we’ve seen previously.

Much of The Winter Soldier is actually much slower paced and plot heavy than you’d expect from a Marvel film and this plays very much in its favour, although younger viewers may not appreciate this as much. However, true to form everything goes ballistic in the final third and we get the obligatory 20 minute action scene with everything being blown to smithereens. Obviously, with superhero films, this formula is the natural one to follow, but it would have been nice to stray from this for a change.

Whilst The Winter Soldier could, and perhaps should, have been the point where we tire of Marvel superhero films, it’s actually one of the stronger entries in the whole franchise that should see him have more equal footing alongside his super-peers when it comes to next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.


  • The Winter Soldier is an excellent villain
  • Interesting and more involved plot
  • Dynamic central trio of heroes


  • Final third a little too formulaic
  • Loses some of its identity with shift in time period from the first film

4 pigeons

4/5 pigeons

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Film review: The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker

Aside from perhaps low budget horror and Jean Claude Van Damme straight-to-DVD action flicks, war is probably the most saturated of all film genres. But with every new conflict comes new interpretations on the perils of war, and the events in Iraq over the past decade or so are prime for filmmakers to tackle from a multitude of angles.

With The Hurt Locker there is no plot as such, but rather we follow, documentary style, a three-man EOD bomb disposal team over the last month of their duty. The film essentially plays out as a series of tension-filled scenes rather than having much of an overarching story, but this is what gives the film an edge of originality. Whilst each character does have his own set of morals, desires, attitudes, and personalities, these often play second fiddle to the action portrayed on screen. This may sound as if the film is lacking in substance and story, but with such a naturally engrossing environment a dense plot is unnecessary.

You could argue that what elements of plot have been introduced on top of the action feel a little shoehorned in at times, and for short periods the film loses some of its direction. The documentary feel of much of the film sometimes gives way to a more traditional form that can feel a little jarring. However, those moments are minimal and rarely detract from the film’s overall focus.

Jeremy RennerAlthough The Hurt Locker scooped six awards at the Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, as well as a host of other awards, the film was heavily criticised by those of military background for being totally unrealistic. There were complaints of incorrect uniforms, too much breaking of protocol and generally a feeling that not enough research had gone into the film, despite writer Mark Boal having been embedded with an American bomb squad for a couple of weeks in 2004.

The fact is that no film is ever truly going to be able to recreate what war is really like, but it can certainly give us non-military folk a feeling of what it might be like and, to be honest, that’s enough. You could get into the debate of just how realistic and accurate a film should be and whether a film should try to get every detail spot on to appease everyone, but that’s another blog for another time. Or perhaps not. Having certain inaccuracies doesn’t detract from the film except for those who have specialist knowledge, which would likely equate to a very small number of those who will watch this film. Whether that’s acceptable or not is, again, another blog for another time. Or perhaps not.

However, there are certain parts of the film that are likely to not sit right even with those with absolutely no military knowledge whatsoever. Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) is somewhat of maverick and likes to do things his own way whatever the consequences. At several points in the film he endangers the lives of his fellow soldiers and breaks protocol on a number of occasions. Granted, this is to add a bit of flavour to the character, but some of his actions would simply not be tolerated. For example, setting off a smoke boThe blast suit that features heavily in the filmmb to obscure his colleagues’ vision so he could disarm a bomb all on his own is something that would very likely be dealt with incredibly severely. This does detract from the realism a little and it’s easy to see why those with military experience may feel a little aggrieved at scenes like that.

This was Renner’s breakthrough role having had lesser known roles in films including 28 Weeks Later and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and he certainly grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He plays the role of the loose cannon antihero who is, for the most part, pretty hate-able but clearly lives for his job and is very good at it too. Occasionally we see James’ human side bubble to the surface and this adds a lot more depth to the character. Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty are also excellent in their roles as Sergeant JT Sanborn and Specialist Owen Eldridge respectively, and it’s the relationships between the trio that give the film some downtime from the tension of the action scenes. You may notice the names of Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes appear on the billing, but don’t take too much notice of that. After all, on a battlefield it doesn’t matter who you are.

Amongst some, The Hurt Locker is best remembered for the ‘battle’ for the Oscars between director Kathryn Bigelow and her ex-husband James Cameron who was also nominated pretty much across the board for Avatar. However, behind that gossip column sub-plot, is one of the most memorable war films of recent years. It might not be 100% accurate in every area, but it’s tense, exciting and has superb performances from its cast. Its direction gets a little muddled at times but overall is a worthy addition to an already crowded genre.

Words: Chris Thomson

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