Captain America: Winter Soldier Review
Captain Rogers returns to fight for truth and freedom against those who would use it against the innocent. With his new plucky sidekick The Falcon, and partner in shenanigans the Black Widow, Steve Rogers fights to uncover the truth behind a conspiracy that will shake the Marvel Movie Universe asunder.
Hyperbolic rhetoric aside this was a fantastic movie, definitely deserves the praise it’s been getting as one of the best movies Marvel’s made. As usual I’ll try to keep this review as spoiler free as I can, but I will be talking about a few small things that could be considered spoilery. If you want a completely spoiler free opinion; the movie is excellent and you should go see it if you like action movie thrillers. Keep reading for the full review.
While working for SHIELD to help protect the world Steve Rogers finds himself embroidered in a conspiracy that leaves him with few people to trust. He befriends war veteran Sam Wilson as he tries to figure things out before the rabbit hole goes even deeper. He goes on the run to uncover who is behind this mess and stop a threat that could put the world under the thumb of something truly sinister.
Vague plot summaries aside the movie may start with a big action scene with Captain America, Black Widow, and a SHIELD team, rescuing hostages, but most of the beginning is about how Rogers is dealing with his life. He’s being a soldier again for SHIELD, but he seems to be doing it because he has no idea what else to do with his life. The introduction of Sam Wilson as a PTSD counsellor at the VA was a good way to get us into Steve’s head after coming home from war from a different century. We get to see the Smithsonian museum has an entire section for Cap and his war exploits. Giving some small catch up of the previous movie and laying some ground work for later on. There’s a really heartbreaking scene as Steve visits Peggy Carter in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer’s. We really get a sense of what it’s been like for Steve since the Avengers happened and how he’s trying to make his way in the world. But these scenes are neither boring nor are they extraneous to the plot.
The action definitely kicks into high gear when the Winter Soldier attacks, and Steve sees there’s no one he can really trust at SHIELD anymore. Going on the run with Natasha Romanoff as a spy version of a buddy cop team, the action and the drama keeps up leading to one compelling scene after the next. It’s well paced action, too. Not a non-stop thrill ride, but a rollercoaster with lulls in the middle to build things up for an exciting climax.
This is the best movie for Natasha, her third appearance in the Marvel movies, and it does a really good job of adding to her character and giving her plenty of moments to shine. She’s her own person and neither a damsel to be rescued or a love interest. From the running gag of her trying to set Steve up with some of the girls at the office I feared it would lead to her and Steve becoming romantically involved in some way. But that never happens, or is even implied in any capacity. They are portrayed as two friends and professionals, and is a perfect example of how you can write a man/woman friendship without romance coming into it. They play off each other well and I hope we get to see more of their friendship in the future.
Sam Wilson, played by Anthony Mackie, does a great job as the newcomer to the Marvel staple of heroes. He has some great chemistry with Steve and lives up to the classic comic partnership. As the Falcon he has a military high tech flight suit with wings, because the Marvel movies are full of crazier stuff now so they trust audiences to accept this sort of thing now. The aerial combat is really well done and a great stand-out in the final fight scene amongst a lot of great stand-out moments from it.
There’s a lot of political subtext to the plot, mostly taken from current events that were still in its infancy when the film was being made. To the movies credit it doesn’t heavy hand any of it, though it trusts the audience to go with whatever Captain America is saying. While it’s obviously drawing from some 9/11 and NSA inspirations the point is never hammered home and doesn’t revel in that inspiration unlike other films and their 9/11 imagery. Casting Robert Redford was brilliant for the subtle call back to his political thrillers and he does a wonderful job with the role of Alexander Pierce.
On the negative side of things I’m happy to say there isn’t a whole lot to say, beyond one or two small things. Generally aside from one thing there aren’t any major twists in this. You can see who the bad guys are and can tell the basic dynamics at play fairly early on. Which isn’t very good for a spy thriller where one of the plot threads is the lack of trust. I was expecting a hell-face-turn to happen when Nick Fury said “trust no one” as that’s a big red flag that someone will be betraying the main character later on. But that didn’t happen, not that I don’t think it was a bad choice since I didn’t want to see a betrayal scene in this.
The actual main villain plot was a bit, lacking. Once you starting thinking about it you have to wonder how it would’ve worked in the long term. Not just thinking about other Marvel heroes that would’ve put a stop to it, but also how other countries would’ve reacted to it. As an imminent threat that needs to be stopped it works fine, but as a world wide plan it falls short when you think about it too much.
Other than that the titular Winter Soldier also wasn’t in it a whole lot. He was there to be a big threat and for Cap to have to stop him, but he didn’t appear a lot and the plot could’ve remained the same without him there. However his inclusion gives a very personal stake in this for Steve and raises questions about how he will handle him. It made the story more about Steve as a person and not just how he can stop another world threatening ploy. Much like how the comic story the Winter Soldier gave the main character parts to Steve and left the development of the Soldier for later, this film does much the same.
There are some very big repercussions in this movie, ones that shake up an established order since the first Iron Man movie. I think this is probably the first time the “things will never be the same again” can reasonably be applied to a Marvel product. I will get into this more in-depth in another post, but it is very nice to see the status quo not be reset and things don’t do back to normal once things are over.
Overall this is definitely a must see movie. The film has a lot of moving parts and characters to juggle and does so effortlessly. No character is short-changed and all are given appropriate stand out moments to shine. If you are a fan of Black Widow, the Falcon, Nick Fury, or Captain America, you will love this film. One of the best action movies of the year.