Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review
WINTER IS COMING
Captain America: The First Avenger debuted back in July of 2011 and was met with critical success. This adventure during World War II told the story of Steve Roger’s origins; becomes the first “Super Soldier” and his battle against the vile Red Skull and his Nazi-like faction Hydra. Grossing over 370 million at the worldwide box office, the film carried an inherit hype; acting as a precursor to mega blockbuster hit Marvel’s The Avengers that following year with actor Chris Evans reprising his role of the patriotic Captain America. Now Cap’s sequel is here and ready to face a new illusive threat in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Is this sequel the best movie to date in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or has time officially run out for the infamous “Man Out of Time” avenger?
Set two years after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) has been busy; working covert missions for deterrent agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D, while adjusting to his new life in the 21st century and dealing with memories from his past. After a recent mission, however, Roger is conflicted with the ambiguous motives of S.H.I.E.L.D and of its director Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson); leaving Rogers in the dark. Yet, Cap has little time to evaluate his current situation (Both work and personal) as the mysterious Winter Soldier arrives, a brainwashed individual that has close ties to Roger’s past. His arrival shakes up S.H.I.E.L.D’s leadership, placing them into the hands of high ranking S.H.I.E.L.D official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), whose ambitions take the agency in a new direction. With the help of Natasha Romanov / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and newcomer Sam Wilson / The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Rogers must uncover S.H.I.E.L.D’s dark past, unravel Pierce’s endgame, and confront the ruthless Winter Soldier.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
The first Captain America movie (The First Avenger) was a success, telling a story of one man’s journey and overcoming the odds through the second World War, while drumming up superhero aesthetic and flair to the proceeding. Personally, I actually like the movie (see my movie for Captain America: The First Avenger) as I found it to be entertaining, acting as the penultimate before the first big superhero team up (The Avengers). Plus, it’s neat seeing actor Chris Evans completely owning the role Steve Rogers throughout both of those films in similar fashion to Robert Downey Jr. did for Tony Stark. As for The Winter Soldier, I remember seeing the two trailers for the movie and loved, my geeky superhero side was eagerly awaiting to see it immediately when it came out. As it turns out, it completely blew me away. Captain America: The Winter Soldier tells an engaging story that’s full on superhero fun and action pack thrills that wouldn’t disappoint fans and is (currently) probably the best movie of the MCU’s Phase II Saga to date.
Directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, most notable for TV comedy shows like Community and Happy Endings, this sequel to Captain America works well on so many levels and, is right off the bat, great entertainment fun. The most interesting aspect to the film The Winter Soldier (which I believe many will like) is Marvel’s bold choice to ground the story in a more “Realistic” manner. Gone are the super high tech gadgets and angst from Iron Man 3 and the mystical and fantasy action of Thor: The Dark World as the movie plays out like a cross between a spy film (like James Bond) and an old political thriller with espionage tactics and shadowy intrigue. Real world concerns are represented in the movie as well; questioning the tactical approach of fear and intimidation to the masses, the price and meaning of freedom, and motives of intelligence gathering. Again, it’s a very gutsy move to do, one that could’ve bombed, but this new direction for a superhero film is, what I believe, a breath of fresh air for the genre and viewers alike. Although, this new approach has its drawbacks as the film’s narrative is a heavy-handed at times; perplexing enough to confuse and entangled itself within its own plot moments.
Though the film is less “Hokey” and “Cartoonish” than the first Captain America film, The Winter Soldier still contains all the roll coaster fun you would accept to see in a comic book movie. There is plenty of “Balls to the wall” action throughout the film with an elaborate car chase sequence, intense hand to hand combat, blazing gunfire, cool aerial combat, and, of course, Cap’s agile use of his signature shield. Of course, the choreographed stunts are amazing to see (especially where Cap faces off against ten or so men in a elevator) and the movie’s visuals, which are primarily used towards the film’s third act with the appearance of three Hell carriers (the flying ship from The Avengers), are impressive to behold. The only problem I see with the film’s action is the usage of the “Shaky” camera, which is overly used and becomes a little distraction with scenes becoming blurry to the human eye.
Chris Evans continues his portrayal of Steve Rogers / Captain America in great strides. Carrying his persona from previous entries, it’s interesting to see Rogers trying to cope with the whole “Man Out of Time” concept and his adjustment to his new life. Evans also shows a little bit more vulnerability in Captain America with haunted past memories and a confusion of who he can trust in a world of deception and lies. The introduction of Falcon is really good and a great addition to cinematic universe of Marvel. Anthony Mackie gives a strong performance in that regard; playing Sam Wilson with the right amount of comedic and kinetic energy, which what the film needed him to be. Plus, he looks cool with the wings. In truth, he’s more a sidekick to Captain America rather than a partner as that belongs to Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson. Much like in The Avengers, Johansson’s Black Widow is given more screen time; exploring a little more of her character’s past, while showing off her elite prowess of fighting techniques. It also helps that both her and Evans have a great rapport with one another, which is clearly visible on-screen, with their witty banter going back and forth throughout the film. I wouldn’t say it’s a romantic thing, but more of a platonic relationship.
Samuel Jackson returns as S.H.I.E.L.D’s director Nicky Fury and has more to do here than in previous films; hitting the right marks of humor, authority, and fear to his character. In addition, Robert Redford’s introduction to Marvel’s superhero movies is a welcomed one. His performance of Alexander Pierce is fantastic; carrying the strength and authoritative persona of which you completely buy into and bringing a sort of gravitas weight to the film just like how Anthony Hopkins did with Odin in Thor and Thor: The Dark World. As for the Winter Soldier himself (which I can’t go into great detail because you know spoilers), he’s truly a physical presence when on-screen as a lot of movie’s great action scenes involve his participation. He’s ruthless, intense, and a cold blooded assassin as some have called his character the “Terminator” in the world of superheroes; making him a great villain on-screen.
Cameos, both large and small, are in high demand for this movie. Reprising their roles are Maximiliano Hernandez as Jasper Sitwell and Cobie Smulder as Maria Hill, and even Garry Shandling’s Senator Stern from Iron Man 2. There are characters even from Captain: The First Avenger that appear in movie including an elderly version of Peggy Carter with actress Haley Atwell reprising her role. There are other cameos from the first film, but that would ruin the story, so keep your eye out for them. Smaller cameos from the Captain America comics can also be found in the film as well such as bad guy George Batroc “The Leaper” (who appears at the beginning of the film and fights like a badass) played by UFC fighter George St-Pierre, the inclusion of Brock Rumlow, known as Crossbones in the comics, played by Frank Grillo, and the curiosity introduction to Agent 13 / Sharon played by Emily VanCamp. Even the co-creator of the Winter Soldier comic Ed Brubaker makes a very brief appearance in the film as well as Stan Lee’s famous cameo in the Marvel movies.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Marvel movie if there wasn’t a secret ending or rather secret endings (one mid-credits and one at the very end). I won’t spoil it for viewers, but the first one acts like a prelude to The Avengers: Age of Ultron (due out next summer), while the other sets the stage for what I presume to be Captain America 3 (coming summer 2016).
The phrase “Believe the hype” is the best way to describe Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The film might have gotten a little over its head with its convoluted narrative story arc, but movie’s soars high with its clever representation mash up that’s one-part political, one-part espionage, and one-part superhero comic. Along with its impressive visuals, intense action scenes, and familiar faces, Cap’s sequel is a terrific movie and perhaps, in my opinion, one of the best stand-alone entries (in both Phase I and II of the MCU movies so far). The board has been reset, things have changed, and I can’t wait to see how the aftermath of this movie has on the future installments in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
4.5 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: April 4th, 2014
Reviewed on: April 5th, 2014
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout