by Jack Meldrum
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is fantastic. Not merely 'good for the genre' or 'good but-flawed', but out and out tremendous. It's the best MARVEL movie ever made, by any studio. It's so good I genuinely believe it deserves Oscar nods for screenplay and director. It's a turning point for superhero movies and modern blockbusters, a rousing, earth-shattering film without a single bad scene or awkward moment. At all.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has totally redefined what a superhero movie is. When we look back in a decade, we'll mark at as the point where 'superhero' stopped being a genre and started being a form – a method and style of making any kind of movie, where character and action are irrevocably intertwined and everything exists in this kind of hyper-real, impossible state that you believe in wholeheartedly. It's a sublime political thriller in the vein of The Manchurian Candidate, and it has the best action I've seen in a Hollywood film in my short life – easily the best in a decade at least. It's a tense, chilling film about trust and conspiracies where a man flies around on a jetpack wing suit.
Everything works. From a wonderful opening scene that introduces us (and Captain America, still played note-perfect by Chris Evans) to Anthony Mackie's scene-stealing Falcon to the gut-busting mid-film twist to the fantastic final action sequence, The Winter Soldier is a testament to how the most important part of a movie is the screenplay. There's not a wasted line or a superfluous scene. Action happens because it should, not because someone worried we might be bored. Characters behave like real, complex human beings who just happen to have superpowers and deep moral codes.
And – SPOILER ALERT – there's one of the most shocking, nauseating twists you can imagine in any movie, revealed during a terse conversation with a man who lives inside a gigantic tape-reel IBM computer. For real. It's one of the best scenes in the movie and you don't question it for a second.
The eponymous Winter Soldier is also one of the best things in a very, very good movie. Sebastian Stan has perhaps thirty words in the whole thing but he acts the pants off it. He's chilling and menacing and goddamn relentless and there's never a doubt that he really would kill you, right now, if he was asked to. Despite the soaring unreality of the film, it's totally compelling, to an extent where several times I questioned how this movie even existed. It's that potent.
I can't even tell you about my favourite scene – one totally overflowing with cleverness and unbelievable use of multiple story threads – because it's pure spoiler and you deserve to see it untainted. But you do absolutely deserve to see it. The Winter Soldier is one of the best movies of the year so far, quite possibly the best superhero movie ever made. Unlike The Dark Knight, it's dark without being morose, and it's smart without being smug. It's a fantastically watchable, shockingly well-handled film that mines the source material for every bit of good stuff it can and then creates a transcendent movie experience.
This one's gonna go far.
Jack Meldrum tried to upload himself to his pocket calculator. It's still trying to compute his ego.