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The Russo Brothers Talk 'The Winter Soldier' as Conspiracy Thriller

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood April 4, 2014 at 2:58PM

Thanks to sibling co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, adults can marvel in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." It's a wildly entertaining mash-up of the conspiracy thriller and superhero genres, in which Chris Evans' World War II Marvel superhero not only finds himself trapped between two worlds but also opposing world views.
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Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

Thanks to sibling co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo, adults can marvel in "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." It's a wildly entertaining mash-up of the conspiracy thriller and superhero genres, in which Chris Evans' World War II Marvel superhero not only finds himself trapped between two worlds but also opposing world views.

But then the Russos have always been attracted to incongruity. After all, their "Arrested Development" series was a cross between absurd comedy and reality TV. "The vitality of the Marvel franchise is dependent on pushing it in new areas and finding something fresh to bring to audiences and surprise them," Anthony reflects. "We knew that we were going to do that with this movie by putting it in the political drama and perhaps by doing it in a more grounded, real world version of what a superhero movie can be."

Captain America the Winter Soldier

They recall what Marvel producer Kevin Feige told them about using the paranoid thriller to reach a broad audience with some current context. Thus, the brothers enjoyed tapping the NSA surveillance scandal by utilizing the hot button issue of security vs. freedom. 

But if the opening with Cap humorously running rings around Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson/Falcon brings to mind "Marathon Man," it's no accident. It serves as both homage and introduction of a crucial relationship between two wounded warriors.

"That first scene was about transitioning to this [mash-up] before getting into the heavy stakes of the movie and the darker tone that it becomes," Anthony continues. "And we have a freedom in that opening scene that slips away as the movie progresses in terms of being light. And bringing Falcon into the world, he's a kindred spirit and Cap is in need of new relationships, having lost everything, and his contact with SHIELD is confusing and unreliable."

This article is related to: Captain America: The Winter Soldier , Russo Brothers, Robert Redford, Immersed In Movies


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.