Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
By Matt Patton
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Director: Joe and Anthony Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson
The most highly-regarded superhero films of the last 10 to 15 years (Spider-man 2, X2, The Dark Knight) were all very adept at a few things: providing an inventive vehicle for which to allow the superhero to function in a unique manner, exploring a complex concept or political discourse through genre-themed entertainment and invoking a child-like sense of wonder in those desperately needing some extraordinary spectacle. It’s not a coincidence that those great superhero films were sequels, either.
Free from the shackles of an origin story, Captain America: The Winter Soldier does all of those things and more. For a little more than two hours, I watched Captain America not only beat up the bad guys, but question who the “bad guys” were and question his own philosophies in the process. When the credits finally rolled, I sat there like a dog begging for more.
In its promotional pieces, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is marketed as the movie where “everything changes.” That’s not inaccurate. The events played out in this film have some pretty massive ramifications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially given that Cap 2 is seen pretty much as a direct lead-in to next year’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. This “change” is brought upon by the titular Winter Soldier, a seemingly indestructible assassin who decides to wage war on the international espionage organization S.H.I.E.L.D. When certain agents are put in danger, Captain America is forced to ask where his loyalties are located to determine the mastermind behind the Winder Solder’s path of destruction. The plot is more or less adapted from the beginning of writer Ed Brubaker’s run on the Captain America comic book some years back. (Which I definitely encourage you to check out if you like comic books or superheroes or especially this film. Seriously, Brubaker’s work on the title is some of the best writing in contemporary Marvel comics.)
The opening sequence of the movie throws audiences right into some immediate action, as Cap and Black Widow — with Falcon, a fantastic addition to Cap’s solo film after The Avengers — systematically work their way through a large naval vessel, dispatching countless numbers of terrorists in the process. It’s one of the most playfully directed action scenes I’ve seen in some time. This might not come as a surprise, as fans of NBC’s Community will recognize those names as frequent directors of the quirky and progressive sitcom, and Community star Danny Pudi even makes a brief cameo in the film.
I really only have one problem with The Winter Soldier, and it’s not something that’s even problematic for me, personally. I understand that it’s rated PG-13, but there is a menagerie of rather gratuitous violence in the film: Guys getting kicked into jet turbines, guys getting blown up with rocket launchers, guys getting repeatedly shot with high-powered rifles…it’s all here. I’m not saying that the violence in the film makes it worse; on the contrary, it actually ups the stakes a little bit. However, people should be aware that this isn’t a kid’s movie. It’s rated PG-13 for a reason. I’m both surprised and impressed that Marvel isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty and make a rather adult-targeted mainstream superhero movie.
I’m consistently captivated with the Marvel Studios films post-Avengers, and each subsequent picture seems to be far better than the previous one. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is no doubt my favorite Marvel film to date, and it demonstrates that these superhero films that might seem to over-crowd the box office are capable of adapting into more intricate genre movies. If anything, that’s a good sign for the medium going forward.