***** SPOILER ALERT *****
This review will be discussing plot points which may be considered spoilers. Consider yourselves warned.
It’s no secret that I’m a Marvel guy. However, although I love the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Avengers and even Guardians of the Galaxy, aside from a short run by Rick Remender, I’ve never been much of a Captain America fan. I enjoyed the first Captain America movie, but I wasn’t blown away by it, and it didn’t really do anything to spark my interest in the character. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, on the other hand, has started to change my mind.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best Marvel movies yet and that is no exaggeration. While not quite at the same level as The Avengers, it comes pretty darn close. The movie picks up with Steve Rogers, (aka Captain America) Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap has been trying to find his place in the modern world by jumping back into what he knows: being a soldier and taking orders. When an unknown assassin attempts to take out Nick Fury, Cap is forced to investigate who might want Fury dead. What he finds is a secret that lies buried at the very heart of S.H.I.E.L.D. –one that has very real and dire consequences for the entire Marvel universe.
This movie would not be what it is without Chris Evans in the title role. Whether he is the man out of time or the paragon of American virtue, Evans plays a wholly believable Captain America. This time around Cap is not quite so out of place as he was in The Avengers, and this character evolution is properly developed. It would have been too easy for Cap to stay the same and have trouble dealing with modern times again and again. Winter Soldier does occasionally revisit this but only for a bit of levity and then it promptly moves on. There was the possibility that a character like Captain America would become a puppet for American greatness, but that is not the case in this movie. Evans’ Cap has doubts and admits that he has done things he’s not so proud of in the name of freedom. For a man born in a black and white generation, Cap demonstrates a surprising deftness in navigating today’s shades of gray.
Winter Soldier wasted very little time introducing Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Wilson is no sidekick, but Cap’s partner, Falcon. Of course he doesn’t start out that way, but like most superheroes he gets a bit of an origin and by the end of the movie, he’s going full throttle. Mackie’s portrayal of Wilson is great. He is a capable soldier who compliments Cap while also helping to provide a sounding board for him. I also really liked the Falcon exo-suit. While I can’t speak to the actual science involved, the suit at least looked like it could have been viable. It wasn’t Iron Man, but it wasn’t a costume piece either.
The supporting cast was also great. Robert Redford played a wonderful villain. Instead of being over the top, he was always very matter-of-fact about everything, never letting things bother his calm demeanor. Being the huge How I Met Your Mother fan that I am, I was glad to see more of Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill. Hill’s role is expanded from Avengers and I’m hopeful we’ll be seeing more of her. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. The more he plays this role, the more I’d like to see him get his own movie. Also, there is a cleverly hidden Pulp Fiction reference somewhere in the movie.
And then of course there is The Winter Soldier himself. Those of us who read comics already know his identity, but for those who don’t, I won’t spoil the reveal. Winter Soldier is nearly Cap’s equal. In the beginning of the film, Cap takes down a hard core mercenary without too much trouble, but when it comes to Winter Soldier, Cap is fighting someone who poses a real threat. What got to me most is the path they chose for the character. The Winter Soldier’s true identity creates an expectation of what the character is going to do in the end, except he doesn’t. Considering how successful their movies have been, Marvel has made the right choice, delaying the inevitable in favor of further character development. Good call, guys.
The only complaint I had about the movie was, as is to be expected, the shaky camera work. Having said this, it was not frequent nor was it as egregious as in many movies such as Robocop. In fact, the overall cinematography was actually quite good for an action film. For some reason American directors seem to think the only way to shoot an action sequence is by getting right up in people’s faces and shaking the camera a lot. The reality is that nothing is further from the truth. This movie included some great fight scenes shot from a distance
The special effects were very convincing, especially with multiple Helicarriers in the air at once. The logical part of my brain told me that a flying aircraft carrier is impossible but it still looked really cool. Unlike many other superheroes, Cap and Falcon are not afraid to use actual weapons. While Cap doesn’t have a gun this time around, he also doesn’t hesitate to lob a grenade at some nameless bad guys who are trying to stop him from saving the world. Falcon has a pair of automatic pistols, which he uses, though how effective they are is debatable.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the right mix of super hero action and suspenseful spy movie that had lead me to see it a second time already. Marvel needs to keep it up. Five Death Stars.