"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" broke new ground for Marvel Studios. The home of the Avengers has always been daring with how it treats its characters, but second movie featuring Captain Steve Rogers pushed the limits of what audiences consider a superhero movie.
This wasn't another origin story or a lazy MacGuffin plot. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo really made a political-paranoia thriller that happens to star a superhero and pulls heavily from the works of all-time great directors like Michael Mann and Brian De Palma.
I spoke with the filmmaking brothers for the Blu-ray and DVD release of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (September 9), and they broke down which films from the past influenced the new standard for modern superhero movies.
"Three Days of the Condor"
A quick look at the premise (or the trailer above) of this Sydney Pollack spy thriller should make the connection pretty clear, and that's even if you ignore the presence of Robert Redford, who played Alexander Pierce in "The Winter Soldier."
And according to the Russos, this isn't lost on them. "As far as the political thriller history of it, we often joke to ourselves that you could call this movie 'Three Days of Captain America,' because we owe such a debt to 'Three Days of the Condor,' " Joe Russo said.
"The Winter Soldier" shares a common thread with "The Dark Knight," in that they both have sequences inspired by Michael Mann's heist thriller, "Heat." The Russos looked to that film's bank heist when creating Cap's first fight with the brainwashed Bucky Barnes. "['Heat'] brought an intensity and a visceral violence that we felt we hadn't seen until that point," Joe Russo said. "That was the style and tone we were chasing in that sequence."
Brian De Palma, who made classics like "Carrie," "Blow Out" and "Scarface," has always masterfully infused his movies with suspense, and for some key "Winter Soldier" scenes, the Russos looked to his structure as a model. "We love the way that he uses tension to twist the screw on characters," Joe Russo said. "Whether it's the elevator or when Nick Fury gets assassinated in Cap's apartment or Fury's trapped in his car, it's how De Palma structures thriller tension." For an obvious example of this, look no further than "The Untouchables" and its famous shootout.
"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.