Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the follow up to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, and while a lot of movie goers lauded the film’s titular hero for being too goodie goodie, I found it refreshing. So many films try too hard to maker their heroes flawed and scarred just to give them a false sense of depth. Sometimes it’s okay to have a true good guy who does good because that’s what you’re supposed to do. The Winter Soldier may transport Captain America to modern day, but thankfully he maintains his “Bullies are bad” moniker and shows even the most jaded heroes that being good, aint bad.
One of the things you will notice right away with Winter Soldier is that it is a great spy thriller with amazing action. Chris Evans returns as Captain America, a man striving to do right in a world that does’t always reward it. He is joined by Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), the antithesis of Captain America, a heroine with a dicey past who believes in doing whatever is necessary to get the job done. The first action sequence showcases their differing styles while presenting us with an awesome action piece as they retake a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel taken hostage by pirates. The chemistry between the two is great as they work together throughout the film, and find that they aren’t as different as they originally thought.
Samuel L. Jackson also returns as Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. This film brings him his largest role to date in a Marvel film, and we get to see him mix it up in several scenes. The film shows us the stress on an organization and it’s leader when tasked with maintaining order in a world populated by individuals who can do extraordinary things, and who make a lot of people nervous. Make no mistake, this is not Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this is full fledged, trillion dollar budget, awesome gadget packing S.H.I.E.L.D.
The newcomers this time around feature two great additions. First you have Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson, a war veteran who straps on a pair of wings and takes flight as The Falcon. He provides us with some comic relief, but also gives us a glimpse as to what Captain America means to soldiers who risked their live in service to our country. Then there’s Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce. Redford brings gravitas and respect to the Marvel universe with every scene he’s in. I won’t spoil too much of his character’s part in the film, but the character is as good as he is because of the masterful performance Redford puts on.
The film’s villain, or the one you know of, the Winter Soldier is an interesting character. I don’t think it is spoiling anything to say that the Winter Soldier was once Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers childhood friend who fought Nazis alongside him when he became Captain America. We saw Bucky presumedly fall to his death in the first film when he and Captain America attempted to board the train transporting Dr. Arnim Zola. He has no memory of his former life or his relationship with Rogers. It’s this relationship that adds another level to the film. Can Captain America accept that his friend is gone, and do what must be done?
There is a lot going on in this film, yet it is never difficult to follow. Even when the inevitable double crosses happen, you can always follow the plot and action. One of the recurring themes throughout the film is who can Captain America trust? Even those closest to him, Nick Fury and Black Widow, seem to lack in Captain’s trustworthy meter. This is what appears to be hardest for Captain America to adapt to in this new world, gone are the days of black and white, right and wrong, American and Nazi.
I’d like to take a second and gush on a couple things. First off, the shield. I have always been hesitant about the shield as a weapon, but this movie nails it. It is used to it’s fullest in this movie, and reveals itself to be just as badass as a mythical hammer, staff of power, or a special quiver of arrows. Second is the Marvel universe. There are nods everywhere; from Gary Shandling’s Iron Man 2 senator returning, to the offhand remark about Doctor Strange, Marvel has done an outstanding job in creating a universe where superheroes are part of the world we live in. Thirdly, the action. This movie features amazing hand to hand fighting, air battles, gun fighting, and all around super hero carnage on an epic scale. The action is crisp and frequent and you never have to strain against rapid movement to guess what’s happening.
Now for a couple criticisms. The terrorist group in the film is recycled from a previous Marvel film, and while not a terrible return, I am left to think that they could have simply made a new organization. I understand this is based on a comic book, but there are plenty of other liberties taken and I don’t see why this couldn’t be one of them. Secondly, and this might not be fair, is that the world of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is populated by stronger and some would say better heroes. If this was truly the global crisis that is was alluded to be, then I can’t help but think that Thor or Iron Man could have solved the problem in 3 minutes. Fly in, light them up, get the girl. I know it’s not right to think like that, but if you are going to mention these heroes by name then you are establishing them in the story and they should be brought in if things are that bad. If you want us to believe that only Captain America can solve the problem then don’t bring up the Avengers or other heroes.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier features some of the best action Marvel has brought us to date. The story is the best and most fleshed out of any previous entry in their catalog as well. New additions Anthony Mackie and Robert Redford really shine as does the entire returning cast. Small nitpicking aside, the film is probably my fourth favorite film in the Marvel series (behind Iron Man, Avengers, and Thor), and serves as a great continuation in the Marvel film universe.
Be sure to stick around for the two after the credit scenes. I won’t spoil them here, but one is a set up for Avengers: Age of Ultron and the other is an extension of The Winter Soldier conclusion.
Let us know in the comment section below what you thought of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.