Russos Talk Captain America: Civil War Influences, Call it a ‘Psychological Thriller’

Russo brothers talk film influences for the ‘psychological thriller’ Captain America: Civil War

You can always learn a thing or two from the director commentaries on films. A lesson on how something was achieved, what they hoped to accomplish with a scene, what the original idea was that then became a classic moment – there’s a multitude of lessons. The commentary for Captain America: The Winter Soldier is special because it has directors Anthony and Joe Russo completely in their element, watching and speaking as fans.

The Russos are bona fide geeks. I have seen their credentials personally. What they bring to the commentary of “Winter Soldier” is not only a perspective on their craft, essential in creating one of Marvel Studios‘ most unique movies, but also an extensive list of the films and filmmakers that influenced the overall feel and tone of the film as well as specific sequences. Among those they list are some you might expect for an American themed action movie: Rocky, Heat, Mission: Impossible; plus filmmakers like David Mamet, Stanley Kubrick, and William Friedkin; but also some out-of-left-field films like The Terminator, Once Upon a Time in the West, District 9, and Alien 3. Yes, Alien 3.

I had the opportunity to speak with the Russos on the set of Captain America: Civil War (the “Team Cap” portion of which you can read by clicking here) and mentioned to the two of them how much I loved that they did this on the commentary, but more importantly I asked them what the films are that have influenced Civil War. Without any hyperbole, their answer came as a shock.

“In general, just as a framing we always thought about Winter Soldier very specifically as a political thriller,” Anthony Russo says. “This movie we think of more as a psychological thriller. It’s connected to what we’re doing in Winter Soldier, but it evolves into a more sensitive, complicated character thriller. Again, I think based upon the fact we’re dealing with our protagonists clashing with one another.”

“The movie we’ve been referencing a lot on this one is ‘Se7en,’ weirdly,” Joe adds. “We like smashing genres into each other, so if you can find something that’s really idiosyncratic in respect to superhero genre and you can smoosh it into it you usually wind up with something fresh and different. ‘Se7en,’ ‘Fargo,’ just as far as we’re not making comparisons in terms of quality, we’re just talking influences. ‘The Godfather,’ because that’s a sprawling film with a lot of characters that tells very intricate stories. Each character has an arc.

Anthony chimed back in and mentioned Brian De Palma, the director of Carrie, The Untouchables, and the previously-mentioned Mission: Impossible that they cite in their ‘Winter Soldier’ commentary.

“De Palma is the one carry over between both movies,” Joe says. “Because he’s so good at tension and empty space.”

The brothers ponder the question further, going on to say that not only have westerns been on the tip of their tongue for the shoot, but that scene in particular we were watching them film was what they called their “’Rumble Fish’ sequence.”

“It’s hard to talk about it because then you give stuff away,” Anthony tells us. “We could probably talk about 100 of them.”

We look forward to hearing all about them on the commentary track. Captain America: Civil War will open in theaters on May 6.