'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Review: A Game-Changer For The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a big movie. Big in scope, dense in story, and pivotal to the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. It continues the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), also known as Captain America, as he begins to return to "normal" life after saving the world with some friends in The Avengers. He's joined by fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a soldier turned friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and a slew of others including, but not limited to, characters played by Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford, Frank Grillo, Georges St. Pierre, Cobie Smulders and Hayley Atwell. Like I said, it's a big movie.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo do a solid job of molding all these moving parts into a story that, for the most part, makes sense. But even when the story gets a little too complicated and the exposition a bit too wordy, it's quickly saved by its entertaining action and continual narrative twists. Many of these will change everything you thought you knew about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And I'm not just talking about the two credits scenes. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fun, worthy, if slightly bulky entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As the story begins, Rogers is beginning to question the authority of S.H.I.E.L.D. The events of The Avengers have changed how the agency operates and Rogers isn't quite sure if this is how he wants to spend the life he so luckily gets to live. This emerging internal struggle is incredibly interesting and complex, but is quickly side-stepped when Rogers' worst fears come to pass. The action is necessary to get the plot moving, but slightly disappointing because these internal issues are pushed away for the story.

To describe the story in almost any detail beyond that would be considered a spoiler by anyone who would care. I'll say it continually keeps you guessing, interested, and maybe even scratching your head a bit while looking at how it all fits together. It works, make no mistake, but at times the film – which runs 136 minutes – does go a tad too heavy on the plot.

That plot is, of course, punctuated with action scenes, and really good ones at that. The Russos talked a bunch about The Raid before release and you see the influence of that film in the hard-hitting fights. There's a lot of hand to hand combat in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in addition to tons of gunplay, aerial battles, and car chases. The Russos — working from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely – have created a widely varied action film. One downside to that action is that, as this is the Russos' first movie of this scope, it doesn't always flow as well as you'd hope. Again, a minor gripe.

All the returning actors — Evans, Johansson, Stan, Jackson etc. — are better in this film than they've been in any previous Marvel movie. That's likely a result of each getting increasingly comfortable in this expanding universe. Out of the new additions, though, Anthony Mackie is far and away the standout. His Falcon is exhilarating, both as a hero and human, and Mackie brings humor and gravitas to the role.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an ideal middle chapter in a larger story. The performances are charismatic, the story is surprising, and the action exciting. Plot wise, there's some complex stuff going on ,which you'll definitely need a conversation or two to get straight. When that happens though, you'll be on pins and needles to see what it all means for everything Marvel moving ahead. There are some problems, but even acknowledging those, it's hard not to fall in love with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

/Film rating 7.5 out of 10