Captain America: The First Avenger

Among the dozens of comics I read in my youth, Captain America was a favourite. The tale of the super-soldier fighting for his country captivated the imagination with Joe Simon’s and Jack Kirby’s iconic creation leaping to life from its comic book pages.  Although a low-budget film version was made of his exploits in 1990, this update makes for a better cinematic adventure for a hero always fighting under the star spangled banner.


Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a weak army cadet who enlists in an experiment to create super-soldiers.  Given a special serum he becomes a hulking fighting machine ready to take on anyone.  An opponent arrives in the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a dreaded former Nazi officer determined to take over the world.  Helped by an array of colourful friends and using the moniker Captain America, Rogers fights for justice and freedom before the planet meets a cataclysmic end.


The latest in a very long-line of superhero movies, Captain America suffers somewhat from ‘comic book overload’.  Whilst it dazzles with action and razor sharp CGI its story isn’t really anything new.  There’s more than a touch of the familiar as it charts his origins and his ensuing battle with the wicked Red Skull.  The actors do their best and are fine but having seen so many of these films one expects something more than the perfunctory offering given.


Not that it isn’t enjoyable as there is much to admire.  The World War Two setting allows the production designers to have a field day with the cinematography expertly capturing the gaudy remnants of the era.  Somehow the addition of hi-tech weaponry within the plot takes away some of this sheen seeming out of place in the old fashioned narrative.  Chris Evans makes for a fine hero however and equips himself well when required.  Hopefully he will further refine the character in the upcoming Avengers movie due next year.


Captain America: The First Avenger is a reasonable if not remarkable addition to the genre.  Whilst it could have done with more spark and robust direction, it does the required job and should satisfy fans who grew up marvelling at the exploits of the ultimate freedom fighter.


Rating out of 10:  6

5 Days of War

Examining the Georgian and Russian conflict of 2008, 5 Days of War presents a personal spin on events.  Although mostly succeeding it provides a somewhat simplistic account of a complex war.  Given it was directed by a film-maker mainly known for action films this shouldn’t come as any surprise.  Despite this there are some moments effectively questioning how such deeds could still happen in a supposedly more enlightened era.


Known for venturing into war-torn countries, reporter Thomas Anders (Rupert Friend) and cameraman Sebastian Ganz (Richard Coyle) are no strangers to witnessing deadly conflict.   Even their experience cannot prepare them for what they see in the Georgian province.  In dispute with Russia over land, the area becomes a war-zone from which there is little escape.  Tasked with gathering the facts, they see first-hand the scars of battle and the apathy of other countries unwilling to help.


The most interesting aspect of this otherwise superficial movie is how media savvy those engaged in war seem.  With the search for a memory disc containing damaging pictures the fulcrum of its plot, 5 Days of War reveals how empty the motives are of some of those in charge.  Mixed with reporters who constantly put their lives on the line in search of a story – and the subsequent refusal of TV networks to correctly report it – these elements provide ongoing engagement in a rather glossy version of what actually occurred.


Given it goes to great lengths to claim it is ‘based on actual events’, 5 Days of War is very one-sided.  Funded by the Georgian government, it can hardly be called an objective account with Renny Harlin’s direction seemingly more interested in action sequences than the more interesting politicking.  This is clearly seen in the characterisation with each side painted strictly in black and white strokes.  If one can ignore that there are some potent moments although proceedings are shown in a Reader’s Digest manner than anything substantial.


Although not giving the whole truth of the situation 5 Days of War at least provides a starting point for those wanting to learn more.  Any movie doing this is worth something, even if its execution lacks much depth.


Rating out of 10:  5