Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Review #3)

Captain_America_The_Winter_Soldier_Teaser_poster

It’s good to be back. No, I’m not quoting Tony Stark, I’m expressing my joy about seeing a solid Marvel Studios project after a year of mediocrity. For me, they didn’t get it right with Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but Marvel Studios has a slam dunk with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. They didn’t shatter the glass like they did with The Avengers, but it’s a slam dunk nonetheless.

If you’re looking for a sequel identical to the style of the first installment, you’re not in luck. This isn’t the super glossy 1940s period piece that captured the fighting spirit of the American people during World War II. There’s no swing music or colorful propaganda ads. That optimistic spirit is gone in exchange for a movie with a darker, sometimes eerie, tone. But it’s a refreshing change from the other one-liner-riddled Marvel project.

And this is the perfect setting for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). You have to imagine that the culture shock would be almost unbearable for someone in his circumstances. The writers, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, could have gone for the obvious here, “Let’s show Captain America try to navigate an iPhone or play the Captain America video game.” To be honest, that would’ve been pretty funny and the writers may have missed a few comedic opportunities, but this film looks at the bigger picture. It looks at an America that’s fractured and that might care more about security, based on fear, than on freedom. It’s not ‘us vs. them’ like in World War II, it’s ‘us vs. us vs. them vs. who knows’. This is a great challenge for the good captain; if the barrage of bullets won’t stop him, his disillusionment might.

captain-america-winter-soldier

Rogers’ paranoia gets to him early on when, during a rescue mission, he realizes he wasn’t briefed on the data extraction element. He’s also unimpressed when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) tells him about Project Insight which involves three helicarriers designed to pre-emptively eliminate threats. And, like most of the world around Steve, S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t what it seems. Fury warns him to trust no one. The organization has threats on the inside and these threats are linked to the Winter Soldier, who, in turn, is linked to Steve’s past. What is this organization and what do they want? That’s what Captain America needs to find out.

The fact that he’s branded a fugitive upon withholding information from senior official Alexander Peirce, played by the legendary Robert Redford, hinders his progress. It’s shocking that Marvel managed to snag Redford, but it’s a very welcome addition. He breezes through the role of a man whose allegiance is ambiguous, but even if he played a vampire or zombie he’d still provide class to the picture.

The Winter Soldier feels more like a political thriller than a super hero film at times. Cap’s on the run from his own people and he doesn’t know whom to trust. There’s conspiracy, political factions, fact-finding and stealth. The threats aren’t cartoonish nor are they simply isolated to one mad super villain, but are a variety of threats that apply to the United States of today. That realism is what gives the movie its sense of dread. It’s too bad the film has to end in the stereotypical, huge-vehicles-being-blown-up fashion. A smaller climax might have suited the tone of the film better, but at least the ending provides the viewers with one of the rare tear jerker scenes in the epic series and, of course, some fine action.

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Sebastian-Stan

Thank God this fine action doesn’t overwhelm. It comes along only when necessary, and directors Anthony and Joe Russo know when to pull back when things look like they’re getting out of hand. The movie has several impressive fight scenes, but it could stand to lose some of the shaky camera techniques and quick cuts; I suggest perfecting the choreography and letting it shine in clear, coherent shots rather than obscuring it. The sparse action also allows for some intimate, character-building scenes as when Steve Rogers meets Sam Wilson, The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in the first scenes of the movie, lapping him multiple times while out for a run.

Sam’s a former Pararescueman trained by the military in aerial combat using a specially designed wing pack. He also counsels other veterans who have PTSD. Naturally, Sam’s drawn to the legendary Captain America and they form a charming bond. He’s recruited by Steve and becomes somewhat of a sidekick much like in the comics. He’s a very likable character and his wings are always fun to see even when it’s completely obvious at times when the CGI ends and the live action begins during his flights. The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) joins the boys on their mission, providing some fine comedic relief, especially when recommending ladies for Steve.

Captain-America-The-Winter-Soldier-Chris-Evans-Scarlett-Johansson1

I’ll admit I’ve never been the biggest proponent of the casting choice for Captain America. Chris Evans seemed too young and immature for the role. Captain America is the paternal figure of the Marvel Universe who garners respect from virtually everyone, even Wolverine. I didn’t see that in Evans. But I have to admit, as he ages and matures, both in real life and in the film, he owns the role more and more. And he’s one of the reasons why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is such a fine piece of entertainment.

Grade: A-

Facebook Comments

About author

Glen Ilnicki
Glen Ilnicki 271 posts

Glen has been reading comic books and playing video games his whole life. His unhealthy passion, however, is for film. He currently resides in Ottawa, Canada.