Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Movie Review

After six years and nine films in the massive Marvel project, it only seems inevitable that eventually the chamber’s gotta come up empty; that this juggernaut has to start losing its momentum.  After all, Captain America: The Winter Soldier sequels Captain America: The First Avenger– one of the more forgettable entries in the Marvel-verse thus far.  But by blending sharp gritty action, high-stakes political espionage, and surprising character pathos, The Winter Soldier not only lives up to expectations, but it may in fact be the most timely and important film of the franchise since the original Iron Man.  Early in the film, someone asks Cap if he’s “more than just a shield”.  The answer: hell yes.captainamerica251eeffcf190e2

It starts with Steve Rogers -Captain America (Chris Evans)- running point on a covert special ops mission for S.H.I.E.L.D.  The action here is immediate and visceral, matching the slick feel of a Bond or Bourne excursion.  After the mission culminates in the murky waters of conflicting interests, Cap finds that as out of place as he is in a 21st century full of new technology and expanding pop-culture, it’s his notions of freedom and justice that stick out the most in this era of secret wars and controlled determinism.  We see the normal swagger and humble confidence (if not naïveté) well worn by Evan’s Rogers.  But it’s his identity crisis, him second-guessing his role as a soldier and questioning his loyalties, which is most compelling.  And we see this reflected adeptly in Cap’s team.  Scarlett Johansen reprises her role as the franchise-hopping Black Widow.  Cool and sexy and precise, but also surprisingly vulnerable- we finally get a deeper sense of her character hinted at in The Avengers.  Even Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is more than just an eye-patch and a trench coat this time around.  It’s cool to see a character so used to control having it taken from him and being forced to get his hands dirty.  And Robert Redford brings a significant level of legitimacy and political authenticity to a role seemingly tailored for him.  Anthony Mackey is certainly likeable and appreciated as Sam Wilson, a retired soldier befriended by Rogers, but maybe because there are so many other personalities on screen, we never get as much of him as I would have liked, and ultimately his role feels unnecessary.

There’s a fair amount of exposition in the first act of the film, almost enough to overwhelm, but once it gets going, it doesn’t let up and the stakes become apparent.  Roger’s world turns to chaos, and he comes face to face with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).  The intimidating titular character is perfect as the living weapon counter to Cap’s stalwart shield.  He drives the tension up in every scene and like the Terminator, doles out death indiscriminately, which, despite its PG-13 rating, is never brushed under the rug.  It is disappointing, if only slightly, to realize the grand villainous scheme is a tad “diabolical”- to say nothing of its impracticality.  But it’s easily forgotten and forgiven because the action is so engrossing.  Even though Cap doesn’t have the tricks of Iron Man, or the bombastic powers of Thor, the fight scenes in The Winter Soldier may be the most gratifying.  The hand-to-hand style fighting that is the Cap’s expertise, along with the arsenal of guns brought out in the film, ground the heroes in their limitations, and make the action more immediate without sacrificing scale.  And the scale in The Winter Soldier definitely impresses.  So much so, that I can’t wait to discover how the events of this film will ripple throughout the Marvel world.

With plenty of snarky humor and crackling combat, Captain America: The Winter Soldier satisfies as a superb action film, taking elements from other genres and ratcheting up the stakes through great performances and cool villains.  But what makes The Winter Soldier a truly excellent film is the substance underneath the effects: the lost characters and covert thematic questions of timely relevance.  Do Captain America and his values matter anymore?  How do we tell the bad guys from the good?  It’s a film that is of this time and place, championed by a hero who isn’t.

Parent Connection was invited to review this film as their guest.    To see a video review of The Winter Soldier, as well as other movie reviews and video content, visit YumChunks.

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