spy film

REVIEW: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

My original Captain America: The Winter Soldier review from April 2014 is here.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is attempting to make a life for himself, working for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and SHIELD when an assassin from history known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) resurfaces.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a brilliant film. It combines spy thriller with superheroes who are really down to earth characters, so well that it almost goes beyond being a “simple” comic book movie. The superheroes here are all very human, and besides Steve Rogers himself who’s pretty strong but still human, they are all people who get hurt and bleed.

Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is a spy who’s used to showing people what they want to see, so her developing friendship with Steve is quite special. They are almost moral opposites in how they see the world, but they find a common ground and seeing them work together is great. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is a brilliant character, he’s a soldier like Steve but he’s never been a part of SHIELD so is someone Steve can talk to and trust. Because that’s the thing with SHIELD, it’s a super-secret organisation where everyone has their own agendas, you can never be sure who to trust.

Secretary to the World Security Council Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is new character who personifies SHEILD’s shady agenda. He’s an old friend of Fury’s but being at the top of the SHIELD hierarchy means he definitely knows more than he lets on. Captain America: The Winter Soldier presents the idea of an organisation with almost limitless control thanks to its surveillance and ability to act outside of the law – this is political thriller territory and it handles it all incredibly well.

The fight scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier thrilling and generally well-shot. There’s a lot of hand to hand combat sequences and while there is quick editing and a variety of shot types, there’s moments where the camera tracks whoever’s fighting or there’s a wide-shot, so you can actually see the actors go at it and it makes the whole thing feel more real and tense.

There’s so many stand-out scenes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier but one of my favourites is the attack on Nick Fury’s car and subsequent car chase. Not only does it show off SHIELD’s technology and what a badass Fury is, but it’s tense and exciting and you get worried because Nick Fury is not a man who’s supposed to be able to get hurt.

I can’t not talk about the Winter Soldier. He’s one of the most ruthless yet interesting villains in the MCU. The music when he’s on screen, ‘The Winter Soldier’ composed by Henry Jackman, is haunting as well. It has this low bass rumble and these mechanical sounds that are almost like screams, you can imagine this is what the Winter Soldier hears in his head. It’s a great piece of music and the whole score is one of the most memorable from the MCU.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is magnificent. It’s got the usual spectacle but with its characters who are so relatable and human, it makes it a superhero film for the ages. 5/5.

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REVIEW: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

sM6KRdyCIA’s finest Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) is forced to team up with the KGB’s best Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) to stop a mysterious terrorist organisation who are attempting to build and sell a nuclear weapon.

The plot is relatively simple, infiltrate the bad guys and stop them, but that doesn’t stop there being some twists along the way – it’s also full of spy film cliches but it does them so well I can’t really complain. The simple plot might not work for some people but by having a simple spy plot, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. can revel in its action pieces. Being set in the 1960’s it’s all very glamourous, the costumes and the set design are beautiful (the music is also great) and by being in the 1960’s it allowed to be more tongue in cheek and fun compared to other spy films.

The action scenes are great, the boat chase, the opening sequence with the car chase, the shoot outs all are very slick and stylish and the use of split screens as the action is happening is both a refreshing take on the action and makes it more fun and interesting.

The chemistry between Cavill and Hammer is what really sells these two characters and their antagonistic relationship that slowly becomes something like a grudging respect. Cavil is great as the thief turned spy, full of charm but is also rather cocky while Hammer is full of controlled rage that isn’t always so controlled. The bounce off each other wonderfully and also with Gabby (Alicia Vikander) the asset Solo and Kuryakin use to make contact with the terrorists. Gabby is really a part of the main trio and is just as smart and capable as the two men.

The supporting cast is great too, Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki) is the mastermind of the villainous organisation and is quite happy to use her beauty to get what she wants and to dupe men into thinking they know more than they do. Waverly (Hugh Grant) is kind of smarmy and the sort of guy who knows everything – or at least pretends to.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a lot of fun but the main enjoyment comes from the chemistry between the three leads. For once I’ll say, I really would quite like a sequel. 4/5.