Friday, April 4, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Produced by Kevin Feige
Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
Starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Emily VanCamp, Hayley Atwell, Robert Redford, and Samuel L. Jackson
Released: April 4, 2014
Runtime: 2 hr, 16 min
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout

    I’ve never really been the biggest fan of Captain America as a character, at least his cinematic representations; I just don’t find him all that interesting when you compare him to his fellow Marvel characters like Iron Man and the Hulk, or DC characters like Batman who know...flawed and believable human beings. He’s a nice guy, but is there ever a moment where you ask yourself if Captain America is going to do something that isn’t selfless and the absolute right thing to do, no matter what the cost? No, because when the central trait of your character is literally that he’s the apex of goodness in a human being, that doesn’t leave much moral wiggle room. With that said, there is absolutely no denying that his newest vehicle, The Winter Soldier, is not only a dang good Marvel movie, but a dang good action movie and, surprisingly, political thriller. Period. It combines the superb action sequences and humor that we’ve come to expect from the MCU with politically relevant questions and a twisty plot that will keep viewers on the edge of their seats from beginning to end.

    Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens up two years after The Avengers. Captain America is slowly adjusting to modern American society and is still working alongside Black Widow as an operative for S.H.I.E.L.D (but not Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, ABC). But after Director Nick Fury is attacked by forces unknown, Cap is driven to ground and forced to rely only on himself and those closest to him to track down the man leading the attack: a man with ties to his past known only as the Winter Soldier.
    The first Captain America movie was an old-fashioned movie where the good guy is the epitome of civic virtue and the bad guy is...well...a Nazi; it packed in an old-fashioned message, that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and it worked. Thanks to the great cast and some great action and humor, it secured a well-earned spot as one of the better Marvel movies. But as I said, it painted the world in shades of black and white. The Winter Soldier does the opposite, painting the world in the fifty shades of grey (heh...heh) that it’s really made up of. While the villains are definitely evil, there are a couple of rather relevant political questions, particularly to modern day audiences. What is the price of our freedom to our privacy? Is spying on millions of people justified if it’s possible it leads to stopping potential threats? This is the first Marvel movie that honestly has something astute to say about the world we live in. Whether intentional or not, it’s impressive on its own that a movie from Marvel, a studio that usually offers nothing more than high octane, fun action, is actually playing out like a political thriller.
    Like I said, though, this is a Marvel movie, and with that brand name comes a great deal of visually impressive, high octane action sequences. When he’s not pondering the gray areas of S.H.I.E.L.D’s political activities, you can bet your bottom dollar that Cap, Black Widow, and newcomer Falcon are beating the tar out of some bad guys. And, like every Marvel movie, the action scenes are fun and intense, actually more intense than usual. While the effects don’t really hold up at some points, the stakes seemed higher in this movie than in any of the ones that came before it. There are points where the heroes seem like they might not get out in one piece, and that’s something that has never really happened in a Marvel movie before. It’s another place where The Winter Soldier has actually bettered those films that come before it in the MCU.
    The acting from the cast is as impressive as it’s ever been. While I miss Tommy Lee Jones’ terrific deadpan performance from The First Avenger, the movie introduces a lot of great characters who will hopefully be returning for future installments. Top among these is Anthony Mackie as Falcon, who serves as a welcome addition to Captain America’s team with one of the coolest looking gadgets seen this side of a Mission: Impossible movie. Mackie and Chris Evans share an easy chemistry that makes their admittedly quick friendship all the more believable. Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick *expletive* Fury (it’s the law of the Internet that his name forever have a curse word attached to it) and is as awesome as always. While Scarlett Johansson could probably serve to emote just a little more during the more intimate scenes, there are other times where she is spot on, like when she’s being a super-cool-spy-lady-slash-action-heroine.
    On top of all that, there’s a couple terrifically staged twists that serve to continue to keep the viewer on his or her toes. Most of these work very, very well and serve to keep the plot trajectory unpredictable, but I’d be lying if I said a few of them didn’t seem a bit too far out of left field. There’s a couple of them with absolutely no set-up that serve only to move the plot where it needs to go with as little trouble as possible to the writers. The humor works well, too, but there is a lot less of it in this movie than in its fellow Marvel flicks due to this movie being much darker in tone than its predecessors. It’s not really a complaint so much as it is an observation that widens the divide between this and something like Thor: The Dark World. Where a movie like that can’t go five seconds without someone saying something silly, this movie saves the humor for where it seems natural. The movie benefits from it, and I hope that this trend continues into Phase Three and beyond.
    When looked at in the pantheon of Marvel movies, Captain America: The Winter Soldier ranks second only to the downright epicness of The Avengers. It is just as good as the first Iron Man until its climax, where it surpasses it handily. It is elevated by a surprisingly intelligent, twisty plot that keeps its audience wondering where it’s going next, intense action scenes, great performances from a likable cast, and a much more subdued sense of humor than its Marvel brethren. It’s not just a terrific comic book movie, but a terrific movie full stop. Chances are you’re already planning on seeing it, but if you’re not, be sure to get your tickets soon. You won’t regret it.

(3 ½ / 4 stars)

Various Stuff and Such:
-Remember to comment with your own thoughts on the movie and follow the blog if you enjoyed the review.
-Shoutout to the guys sitting in front of my friends and me in the theater who couldn’t go five seconds without cursing at something happening on screen. Makes the movie more enjoyable, guys, hearing you commenting on each and every "Oh, s***" moment in the movie. Thanks.
-To save you some time: the first post-credits scene is awesome and sets up The Avengers: Age of Ultron superbly; the second one could basically have been slapped at the end of the movie, where you wouldn’t have to wade through ten minutes of credits to see it. Stay for the first, then leave.
-Next up on the Marvel bench is Guardians of the Galaxy, which looks frickin’ awesome; I love the Firefly-esque tone that the trailer conveys and can’t wait to see how Marvel Studios can handle the more “out there” elements of its universe.

-Jeremiah VanderHelm
Wannabe Movie Critic


  1. We haven't seen it yet and will probably wait till it comes out on DVD - we're old you know! Thanks for the great review!