Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Part of me is a little sad that I have now completed my re-watch of the Captain America trilogy. My favourite franchise-within-a-franchise is now over, and this might be the most complete and the most well-developed film of the entire MCU.
Following an accident when trying to apprehend Crossbones (Frank Grillo, briefly reprising his role from The Winter Soldier), the Avengers are forced to sign with the government. When some choose not to, a rift forms, dividing the heroes in two.
I’d forgotten just how good this film is. Not only does it work as a Captain America film, as it continues the story of his search for best friend Bucky (Stan), it also works as a part-Avengers film, political thriller and back-door pilot for not one, but two superheroes, Black Panther (Boseman) and new Spider-Man (Holland).
That’s quite the achievement, and it’s a testament to the talent of directors Joe and Anthony Russo that they are able to fit so much in without the overload. It runs at slightly longer two-and-a-half hours, but never feels hefty – there’s no fat on this script. Superheroes are discovered (or re-discovered), older characters die, lengthy conversations about this world’s political system are given, yet you are able to follow it all due to perfect pacing and incredible action scenes.
And what incredible action scenes they are. Perhaps the most famous, and back then most popular sequence in MCU history is the airport fight scene, where tensions run too high not to pummel each other into the ground. Facing off on opposing sides, the diametrically opposed Avengers literally clash in the middle, a splash-page brought to life. It is perfectly choreographed, with each member of the cast given something to do – it is a third act battle at the end of the second, which is perhaps what makes it so memorable.
Not to say that the rest of its action isn’t great. A thrilling chase sequence in Bucharest gets the pulses racing, whilst the third act fight sequence between Cap (Evans), Bucky and Iron Man (Downey) is particularly good (see, for example, the shot in which Cap and Bucky trade the shield).
It is also incredibly eloquently written. Whilst Rogers has more faith in his judgement and does not wish to be overseen by the government, Stark feels tremendous guilt for his involvement with Ultron and the partial destruction of Sokovia. It may have been easier to lean further to one side in terms of the writers’ (Christoper Markus and Stephen McFeely) preferences and have us commit wholeheartedly to Captain America’s viewpoint, but that’s not their intention, nor should it be. Both sides have valid arguments you can understand clearly; Rogers cannot trust the government or any system since discovering Hydra’s infiltration within S.H.I.E.L.D., whilst Stark now firmly believes that they (and maybe above all, himself), should be put into check. The film may have a clear winner, both physically and fundamentally, but the empathy you feel towards both is the desired effect.
It is also insanely well-acted. The new young things, Boseman and Holland are both perfect casting and that’s just with what they’re given in an already busy film. On the flip-side, Stan manages to flip between Bucky and the triggered Winter Soldier with ease, and Evans, as always, is on fine form as the titular hero.
However, everyone is outshone by Downey, this being his best performance as Stark by far. The pain he feels for all the damage he has inadvertently caused flickers onto his face in the blink of an eye, before swiftly gearing up for the next round. This is most evident in the third act’s revelation, where, all-consumed by grief and the desire for revenge, he turns against the friend he trusted most.
It is a near perfect movie: well-paced, beautifully executed action and dialogue, and great performances all around (particularly Downey). A rarity in today’s world of superheroes.