Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Building off the massive success of The Avengers, Captain America is back and better than ever in an intelligent and action packed spy-thriller.

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After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy-the Winter Soldier. (Source: IMDb – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1843866/?ref_=hm_cht_t1)

Superhero sequels are often bigger, bolder and louder than their predecessors – especially when the first made an impact at the box office. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no exception. Everything is ramped up to almost ridiculous levels – but it really works. It’s an entertaining and clever film, with much respect for the first film and the Steve Rogers that we’ve come to know.

Chris Evans is as all-American as baseball and apple pie, with a side of shirtless Abercrombie & Fitch. He really does have the look of a matinee idol of ages past and convincingly plays the earnest and loyal Steve Rogers. In this film, Steve strives to prove that Captain America is more than a shield, more than a weapon.

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Steve Rogers is a relic – his “Truth, Justice and American Way” is long gone, challenging his moral code and causing him to question his place in this brave new world. This is made evident through a really impactful visit to the Smithsonian, where we see just how far removed he is from the events of the first film. His character is lonely and a little bit lost – finding solace in what he knows best – completing his mission.

Steve Rogers is in great company, with many of the characters that we know and love from other Marvel films, including Nick Fury, Black Widow and Agent Maria Hill.

Samuel L Jackson is the pillar of the Marvel series – he’s been the glue that linked the films together and his version of Nick Fury keeps an “eye” on everyone (literally). When his life is threatened, he leaves Steve Rogers with some cryptic advice: “Don’t Trust Anyone” – leading Steve to question the very foundations of order and service that he’s believed in for his whole life.

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Agent Natasha Romanov is fierce, confident and much more than a pretty face as the Black Widow. This woman can hold her own against world class assassins and alien beings – and as played by Scarlett Johansson, has great banter and comedic chemistry with Steve Rogers. Marvel has done a great job with its female characters, again with Colbie Smulders playing the strong and confident Maria Hill, Nick Fury’s second in command and most trusted ally.

 

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There are quite a few new and excellent additions for the Winter Soldier.

Sam Wilson (played by Anthony Mackie) is a retired soldier who strikes up a great friendship with Steve Rogers. As a part of a specialized airborne unit, he has skills that the team can use once they’ve gone rogue, and exudes charisma while he’s on screen. Anthony Mackie is a terrific addition to the team. He’s a great “wingman”, who seems to be having an absolute blast playing the role of would-be sidekick Falcon.

Robert Redford is introduced as Alexander Pierce, head of the World Security Council and friend of Nick Fury. Let’s put this out there – had Captain America been filmed in the 70’s, I think Redford would have been the “natural” pick to play Steve Rogers. He’s an American icon – much like Captain America. It was an absolute treat to see such a fine actor step into a role for a franchise Marvel series.

If you were paying close attention to the movie trailer (and any related marketing) you’ll know that – SPOILER ALERT – the mysterious Winter Soldier is actually Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Steve’s lifelong best friend. He was subject to the experimentation of the Red Skull, making him a stronger, faster and formidable foe for Captain America. The Winter Soldier has been brainwashed and encompasses the paranoia and ruthlessness of the Cold War Era.

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Themes of freedom, security and loyalty play heavily throughout the film. The story gives us relevant and clever ties to NSA scandals and the measures taken to secure our national security. It’s a movie that’s fitting for our times, and a compelling case for the meaning of “freedom”. All powerful security agencies, don’t ask – don’t tell transparency and conviction before the crime – all stories that could be pulled from our headlines. The film is predictable – with it being evident early on who’s calling the shots for the baddies – but manages to play out like an effective spy thriller, and at over 2-hours long, it never feels weighed down by several story lines.

Heavy in hand-on-hand combat and interesting aerials – the action is bigger, bolder and better than in the first installment.

Marvel has done a fantastic job of making a character named “CAPTAIN AMERICA” marketable to an international audience. The film has already made $400 million worldwide. Marvel’s Avengers-related films are clever, in that they rarely forget the events or characters introduced in the interwoven and complicated web of villains, gadgets and good guys. As usual, stay tuned for the credits scene – which gives us plenty to contemplate and look forward to for Avengers 2: The Age of Ultron.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a solid film, surpassing the original in action, story and suspense. Go see it, experience a spy thriller with some truth, justice, and the Captain America way.

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