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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Review)

Captain-America-Winter-SoldierIt’s a rare occurrence when a movie drops a trailer that looks incredible, has expectations set very high and then delivers.  Captain America: The Winter Soldier did just that.  The film also opted to be a Spring movie and in turn wound up being the highest grossing film domestically until just a week ago.  Pretty impressive.  Its also big enough to scare off Batman and Superman from competing head to head with the follow up.   Personally, I was a big fan of the first Captain America film (It so happens to be my favorite pre-Avengers Phase I film) and was looking very forward to another Steve Rogers “solo” adventure.  The film also featured one of my favorite Avengers coming back too, Black Widow.  And then they were using The Winter Soldier storyline…just sounded too awesome to be true.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Review)

Film 

Captain America’s second solo feature film outing takes place two years following the Battle of New York seen in The Avengers.  Steve Rogers is trying to catch up to contemporary society by day and by night running missions of SHIELD.  One such mission has him rescuing hostages aboard a SHIELD sea vessel.  During the mission, Cap discovers Black Widow had a different mission to extract data from the ship’s computers.  Upon return, Steve confronts Nick Fury about this and he shows him Project Insight which Rogers deems as “fear” and not freedom.  When Fury is unable to decipher Black Widow’s intel, he asks a SHIELD official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.  On his way for a rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is attacked by police men and a figure known as the Winter Soldier, which sets into motion a series of a events that will uncover some deceit that will turn SHIELD on its head.

From start to finish, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fine throwback to that of the 1970s era political thrillers.  Except, this one is infused with Marvel superhero goodness to go with it.  This isn’t just some action packed thriller either.  Every inch is drenched in mystery, intrigue and an uncertainty that keeps you on the edge of your seat frame to frame.  That’s actually quite a great achievement that the filmmakers were able to pull off this level of pristine quality in a superhero movie.  And it also doesn’t try to go all real world, it uses its own politics set up within the fictional world of Captain America that goes way back to the World War II era set back in Captain America: The First Avenger.  As different and as distanced as the film is from that first movie, it is impressively a solid follow up to its predecessor.

The cast here is fantastic, headlined by Chris Evans who impressively continues to be the full embodiment of Steve Rogers.  A lot of people hoo and haw about Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark (And don’t get me wrong, he is terrific), but I think its Evans who has done some of the most impressive work in crafting his Marvel character and giving him some depth that goes beyond the typed wording of the script.  He’s an actor that I never thought would soar to some of the heights he has, and he’s done a lot of it within the Avengers universe.  The Captain America, especially in the Avengers and Winter Soldier stories, is not as simple or easy as it may seem on the surface to play.  The best thing I can say about Evans in the role is that I don’t see him at all, all I know and view is Steve Rogers when I watch these three movies he’s in.

Continuing her strong work as Natasha Romanoff is Scarlett Johannson.  There is such a life and fun to her character, but here in The Winter Soldier she and Evans actually display a really strong chemistry onscreen adding even more excitement to the adventure and wonderful exchanges during “downtime” in the movie.  And I’m not talking chemistry as in “romance”, in the fact that an attractive man and attractive woman are allowed to share a frame together and just be friends/partners/coworkers and leave it at that.  Its a really impressive sign of restraint that they didn’t try and craft some love story in the adventure.   I’ve also been really impressed with how great Scarlett works and sells the action scenes so flawlessly.  I know Scott Mendelson doesn’t want one right away, but I love the character and Scarlett’s portrayal that I’ll take the Black Widow solo movie as soon as they’re able to crank it out.

One of the most impressive aspects of the film is the well thought out and shot action sequences in the film.  The film opens with what maybe one of the finest pieces of action in the entire Avenger universe.  Captain America’s rescue of the hostages on the sea vessel is a well played and choreographed event that evokes feelings of something completely different than what we’re used to in the Marvel movies.  It opens the door and sets the stage for the rest of the film too.  Also impressive is Nick Fury’s car chase through the streets that felt very influenced by the Wachowskis and The Matrix Reloaded specifically.  Marvel has come a long way in their action and putting weight behind it and making it “count”, and I think The Winter Soldier is about the best culmination to that so far.

If there is one lesser (and very minimal for me) gripe regarding the film is that its called The Winter Soldier and by the end, his arc really isn’t finished.  Its only about halfway there.  He’s a centerpiece to marketing, important to Steve Rogers and a major player in causing some havoc in the film, but his story only seems medium cooked.  You’d almost expect that they could called the next film The Winter Soldier – Part 2 as this film seemed to serve as an introduction.  But it looks as if some of the arc of the entire Captain America Trilogy will be that of he and his childhood longtime friend Bucky Barnes growing apart and coming back together (I’m assuming, I know nothing of Captain America v The Winter Soldier: Dusk Of Third Avenging).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the finest comic book super hero films ever made.  That kind of praise seems a bit old hat now-a-days though.  We get good to great comic book hero films on a regular basis it seems.  We use to just have a shortlist of these great ones, but now I think we’ve developed a pile.  But Winter Solider is definitely one that I think more often than not will come out of the pile and land on a list for people.  Its really awesome.  Not only is this a thrilling political thriller film with a superhero front, its also a really fun and pulse pounding action adventure with the Marvel values at its very heart.  Hell, it is telling when a film is so good it actually makes a TV show go from almost unwatchable to pretty good and intriguing.  Easily one of the years best blockbusters, if you haven’t seen it, what’s the address to your rock?

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Review)

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail:  Are you surprised?  Its kind of a give that these Marvel films are going to deliver when it comes to the video and audio presentation at home on Blu-ray.  Especially when one of those films is of the year’s highest grossers.  Every scuff and fingerprint on Cap’s shield is accounted for and Scarlett Widow’s frame is captured as sharp as can be.  Fabrics look like you could touch them and you can see the cracks and patterns on street surfaces.  So, yeah, duh, this is great image quality.

Depth: Many great moments are abound, especially during the climax as the action takes to the sky.  Also impressive is the street-level stunt scenes.

Black Levels:  Blacks are inky and absolutely perfect.  When things get dark, its the perfect amount of shadow and you can make out just about everything intended to be seen on screen.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are bold but not distracting.  They pop in a very lifelike manner.  Cap’s colors of blue and red are the standouts of course.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are lifelike and highly detailed.  From Nick Fury’s eye to wrinkles on Robert Redford’s face, you get a good window-like image of people.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean as a whistle.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Review)

Audio 

Audio Format(s):  English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English 2.o Descriptive Video Service, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics:  The 7.1 track here is absolutely outstanding.  It puts you right up in the middle of all the action.  Every sound is well rounded and distinct and full operation.  The score and vocals are weaved in and perfectly balanced as well.  One of the best action tracks I’ve experienced and the best this year.

Low Frequency Extension:  Your room is about to rumble with this track.  Explosions, gun shots, glass shatter, cars crashing, kicks pummeling, punches landing, shields bouncing…the subwoofer is busy busy busy.

Surround Sound Presentation:  All speakers get plenty of action.  Left to right, front to back, there’s something going on in every speaker.  And all of them are timed out with expert precision to pull of all of the film’s best moments.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Audio is loud, clear and crisp.  Perfection.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Review)

Extras 

*I was only sent the Blu-ray disc (just the disc, no case, nothing else).  Some editions will come with DVD copies and Digital Copies I’m sure, but all I can review here is what I’ve been provided with.

As far as the extras on this disc, its kind of disappointing how brief and how little substance there is here to intake.  Missing from this release is a Marvel One-Shot that had started becoming a “thing” with the previous couple releases.

Audio Commentary – Featuring Directors Anthony and Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.

Featurettes

  • On The Front Line: An Inside Look At Captain America’s Battlegrounds (HD, 10:11) – Focuses on the action sequences and stunts performed in the film.
  • On Set With Anthony Mackie: Cut The Check! (HD, 1:55) – Talks about Anthony Mackie’s catchphrase and what he brings to a film when he’s cast.
  • Steve Rogers’ Notebook (HD, 2:26) – The notebook Steve Rogers has in the film featuring stuff he’s trying to “catch up” on was different for every territory the film was released in.  This sort of goes over all that.

Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Commentary (HD, 3:36)

Gag Reel (HD, 2:37)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray Review)

Summary 

Look, its not very hard for me to convince you to buy Captain America: The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray.  You probably were already buying it no matter if you had a Blu-ray review or not.  As it stands, its given a phenomenal audio and video treatment with a slightly disappointing set of extras.  Even if, who cares, I’d take this movie in a bare-bones release.  Winter Soldier is one of the year’s very best films, and one of the most memorable comic book hero films of all time.  This impressive Blu-ray release should like up your home theater and have you getting a lot of replay value in it.  Definitely pick this up the minute it hits store shelves!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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