“This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and perhaps no movie (at least in recent memory) better reflects this famous quote more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Marvel’s new Phase II installment reintroduces us to Steve Rogers, Captain America himself. It has been a few years since the New York incident, and Steve is now living in Washington D.C. and working with the S.H.I.E.L.D. While still defending America from dastardly threats, it is quite clear to everyone and Rogers himself that this is not the same America he fought for in World War II. As a result, his acclimation to this new age America is rocky.
Unbeknownst to Steve and S.H.I.E.L.D figurehead Nick Fury, there is an organization-shattering situation incoming from within. Missions become compromised, and people cannot be trusted. What is worse is the mysterious appearance of an assassin known only as The Winter Soldier, who seemingly exists for one objective: To end Captain America. Nothing makes sense, but Captain America and friends must connect the dots before America in any form is eradicated.
If you read the previous thoughts of the Captain’s first installment, you will find that I thought it was overall solid, but lacking in places. Complete 180 for this sequel incoming in 3, 2, 1. Captain America: The Winter Solider may be Marvel’s best standalone film, and one of the better superhero films ever. Caution when I say standalone. While it can still be enjoyed without any prior exposure to The First Avenger, that film almost certainty needs to be seen before this one. There are enough callbacks and direct references to the first, and while The Winter Soldier does a respectable job in getting those uninitiated with the first in these “flashbacks,” more connection to the characters and situations will be had if the previous film was viewed.
As far as Marvel movies go, the story here ranks as one of the best. Only slight is that it occasionally feels convoluted, but I believe that is more a reflection on me that would be remedied with another watch. The short synopsis was intentional as to not give away too much. Elements of deception, espionage, terrorism, and many others are present here. And yet, it never feels like it is stretching itself too thin, or collapsing under the weight of everything. And the tension! Truth be told, there were times where I doubted how Cap and his crew would get out of things. Surprisingly tight script that dare I say feels relevant to issues today in our world. This gives off a somewhat darker and realistic tinge than many Marvel movies, but it is so meticulously well crafted that it worked wonderfully and did not feel odd. Even with the darker tone, the film has good, unforced humor. Not outright laugh out loud pure comedy funny, but genuine laughs that do not feel forced. In a nutshell, this did what Iron Man 3 attempted to do with humor and tone, but miles better and without the inconsistency.
Chris Evans is Captain America. I was a probably a little hard on him in the first movie, but he is so comfortable in the role now. He of course looks the part but should also get more acclaim for his portrayal. The Cap is not a tour-de-force role as most comic book heroes are not, but I do think it invokes more emotion than the other titular characters, and Evans nails it. Steve Rogers is an stranger in the strange USA land served in this story, and Evans sells us on his character’s uneasiness and overall naivete in this “new” setting. Consequently, we connect with his internal strife. He and the Black Widow Scarlett Johansson possess great chemistry as well, as much of this does require them working as a duo.
The addition of Anthony Mackie as Falcon is a wise one that gives Marvel another character to possibly branch off with in the future. He holds his own with the aforementioned two and gets enough time to shine. Additionally, he provides a good chunk of the humor but not in an over the top sense, but rather a deadpan-ish way. Samuel L Jackson gets more to do here, and delivers. Lastly, Robert Redford has been doing this acting thing for a while, and is pretty good at it (understatement) to say the least. The only small but true issue this reviewer had was the inclusion of The Winter Soldier. He is a menacing character…when on screen. For a movie that features the character in the title, it feels a little unwarranted when I sat down to think about it. Not a reflection on the actor though, just the execution, and again a small issue.
The editing and direction deserves praise in bunches. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo were committed to a minimal reliance on CGI, and it is prevalent. The action scenes and fights namely feel more in your face than anything else Marvel has done, which aids in the hyper-realistic feel of the movie once again. Everything just feels fluid and tight. The score to this needs to get the appreciation it deserves. So many standout music tracks that support The Winter Soldier in scale and overall feel.
Not often that sequels do it better than their original counterparts, but here that is exactly what has occurred. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is not only a great sequel, or a great standalone Marvel film, it is just a great movie, period. Others may find issues that were not present in this review but by and large I truly feel that the flaws are minuscule and to some even nonexistent. We go to movies especially during blockbuster season to be entertained first and foremost, and entertain it did. Who needs the Avengers to assemble when Captain America can do it himself?
Photo credits go to chicagonow.com, comicvine.com, and geekreview.com
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