A blistering battle rages across the skies between a motley crew led by Captain America, and dozens of bad guys. Explosions, gunfire, planes and everything worth shooting or stabbing is having a go at each other. And then in this unlikely moment the movie finds a way to shoehorn into the scenario perhaps the greatest television geek of modern times (I won’t reveal whom) as a lowly technician on one of the Helicarriers watching the on goings in his passive television persona. He’s there for barely half a minute and those who don’t know who he is won’t even realise the joke, but those who get it, it is friggin monumental! In the countless moments like these littered across the movie that make you realise how much the Russo brothers love the source material know exactly how to tweak it, update it and inject it with all the right excitement and humour to make it a refreshing change from the usual comic book movies. This is the movie, ‘Iron Man 3’ could and should have been.
In the two years since the Avengers, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has spent his time catching up on pop culture his missed out when frozen for seventy years and as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. partaking in missions across the globe for Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). However things are not all well at the agency, and Fury suspects the recent hijacking of a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship, has more to it than meets the eye. Though he voices his concerns privately to the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), he thinks it has something to do with a high tech snooping (think Person of Interest meets Minority Report) project that’s going to be misused. Before he can do anything about it, he’s left mortally wounded by a bunch of assassins led by the mysterious Winter Soldier who may share a past with Captain America. Before biting the bullet, Fury hands over some secret data to Rogers, which leads to Rogers becoming a fugitive from every government agency. With no one but Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and an ex-soldier, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to assist him, Rogers has to figure out who’s at the top of this conspiracy and what are ramifications of it all.
With the by-the-numbers origin story out of the way, the Russo brothers literally shred to pieces any other comic book template that has come before this. They create a movie that’s just as much a superhero tale, as much as a political thriller and big budget summer blockbuster. Individually each genre is good but not great, but put them all together with the wonderful glue of off-kilter humour holding it all together and bam! It is a hell of a joyride. The pace never falters and you’d never be bored.
Paranoia plays as an important theme and is well highlighted by how the movie foreshadows most of its action set pieces by having the assailants and perpetrators as people in uniform and in positions of power. No one can be trusted seems to be the message but the Captain is and always has been naive despite his best efforts to the contrary. Here too in a world filled with such cynicism and he offers what may appear a vanilla sense of hope and justice but refreshingly makes him the underdog and the guy to root for.
Oddly enough in parts the plot reminded me of last year’s dud, ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’. But where that movie is a textbook lesson in how not to make an action-political thriller with wise-cracking villains and heroes, this one does everything right; except perhaps one thing. For a movie with the moniker, ‘The Winter Soldier’, there’s barely any of him in the movie. He’s introduced and set up more for the third part than being an integral part of this one.
For those expecting a usual, everything’s back to normal ending, you’d be in for a rude shock by the time the end credits roll. ‘The Avengers’, ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Thor 2’ made it sound like things wouldn’t be and weren’t the same after what happened in New York, but I never really felt that sense of curiosity or change. The events of this one are a big game changer and now the Marvel future looks like something to look forward to once again.
The cast is excellent as ever and most of them you’ve seen a few times before. Of the new ones, Robert Redford easily tops the list and with his trademark scowl, smile and witty quips, you want more of him. Anthony Mackie is earnest but underused, while the same can be said of Frank Grillo as a S.T.R.I.K.E. commando, obviously set up in the ending for a larger role in the third part (Crossbones anyone?). Also watch out for a hilarious Stan Lee cameo.
Easily one of the best movies to come out of Marvel, has enough humour and heart along with all the blockbuster elements that make you love a good superhero movie.