Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review: Anything But Old Fashioned

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After the good-not-great Iron Man 3 and the utterly forgettable Thor: The Dark World, Marvel’s Phase 2 has been jump started by this unique and ambitious sequel starring the First Avenger.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier brilliantly strings together the mythology and depth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with ideas and themes that will keep the politically-aware (how much in common does SHIELD have with the NSA?) fascinated by the superheroics.

Dropping the aliens and the Norse gods but still keeping this a very obvious comic book movie (one of the antagonists’ mind survives through a computer), The Winter Soldier is as fun as it is grounded.

Starting with a rollicking siege of a ship holding SHIELD secrets, Cap (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) lead the charge but lack the trust they seemingly had in The Avengers. Cap’s trust in SHIELD has been shaken as they seemingly try to put out fires before they start. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) plays a more pivotal role than ever before as this espionage thriller dives into the ethics behind SHIELD.

Where Captain America: The First Avenger was almost a propaganda film, although a damn good one, The Winter Soldier sharply examines the changed mindset from 1945 to 2014 and the generational gap, or lack thereof, between what was right and wrong in different political climates.

This sequel is the first Marvel movie to ask big ethical questions since the first Iron Man. What makes The Winter Soldier superior is that it answers its own questions and changes the Marvel landscape forever. The climax of Thor: The Dark World had Thor stopping the end of the world. The climax of The Winter Soldier sees Cap, Widow, and the newly winged Falcon (Anthony Mackie) trying to stop an organization from using information to take out “potential threats”. Thor may have had higher stakes, but the end of this film doesn’t feel like a big action sequence for the sake of a big action sequence. It feels like they are fighting for something important and bettering the world by it. At their best, that’s what superheroes are meant to do.

It helps that the quieter moments of the movie land just as well as the big action scenes. Evans and Johansson are given a ton of screentime together and use every second to their advantage. I appreciate that their relationship was kept plutonic, this being one of the few superhero movies that didn’t force a romance upon us. The Winter Soldier sells the interpersonal relationships between these characters, giving us more to latch onto in this universe.

The villain, the titular Winter Soldier, isn’t quite all he seems to be either. Quiet and terrifying, this ruthless mercenary with a metal arm has a connection that proves to be an effective emotional hook behind all the politics.

At almost two and a half hours, the movie does drag a bit in the middle, giving way to some supervillain exposition via computer. But overall, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is easily one of the best superhero movies of all time. Featuring great heroes and villains, an astutely topical script, and the same humor that separates the Marvel universe from the Dark Knights of the world, this sequel packs a big punch a month earlier than we are used to. The rest of the superhero movies of 2014 have a lot to live up to. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty


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