US Release Date: 04-04-2014
Directed by: Anthony RussoJoe Russo
- Chris Evans, as
- Steve Rogers / Captain America
- Samuel L. Jackson, as
- Nick Fury
- Scarlett Johansson, as
- Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
- Robert Redford, as
- Alexander Pierce
- Sebastian Stan, as
- Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier
- Anthony Mackie, as
- Sam Wilson / Falcon
- Cobie Smulders, as
- Maria Hill
- Frank Grillo, as
- Brock Rumlow
- Maximiliano Hernandez, as
- Jasper Sitwell
- Emily VanCamp, as
- Kate / Agent 13
- Hayley Atwell, as
- Peggy Carter
- Toby Jones, as
- Dr. Arnim Zola
- Stan Lee, as
- Smithsonian Guard
- Callan Mulvey, as
- Jack Rollins
- Jenny Agutter as
- Councilwoman Hawley
Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Ever since World War II, there has been a growing fear of a New World Order. It is a fear that a shadow government is truly in charge, while we the people are none the wiser. From 1941’s Keeper of the Flame to Captain America: The Winter Soldier the idea that the common man has no clue who is actually in charge is the back bone of most conspiracies.
Steve Rogers was once eager to join the army and fight for his country. Now he has doubt about what he wants to do. The movie opens with Captain America and Black Widow leading a Shield team to rescue hostages on a ship in the Indian Ocean that has been boarded by pirates. Steve discovers that while that is why he was there, Black Widow had a different assignment.
Steve begins asking questions and a hit man shows up. The bad guy is obvious by the casting choice. The identity of the Winter Soldier is known to anyone who reads Captain America comic books. With a plot that is obvious, you may not think there would be much tension but there is.
Steve is physically impressive but a bit uncomfortable in this world. Natasha teases him about his social life. He meets war veteran Sam Wilson who now works with veterans with PTSD. Steve comes from a time and place where he thought everything was black and white and now sees how the world is anything but. Evans seems more comfortable in the role, playing Steve Rogers with quiet dignity.
Whereas Thor is an arrogant God and Tony Stark is an arrogant ass, Steve is a humble soldier. He finds himself in leadership positions, even though part of him is still that skinny kid who was more heart than muscle. Steve is an interesting person in that he is still trying to catch up with a world that seems strange to him. His relationships from his old world and in his new world make Steve a very human superhero. Natasha and Sam are perfect friends for him.
Natasha was a former spy for the Soviet Union. Since Steve was frozen during the cold war that means little to him. Sam is a veteran and thus has an instant connection to Steve. Black Widow has her moments as does Falcon, who dominates parts of the climactic battle that takes place in the sky above Washington DC. The film hints at a sequel that would include Falcon and I truly hope it does.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is grittier than Thor. The heroes here do not escape wound free. The Winter Soldier draws blood and with the added emotional layer of who he actually is, makes for a great villain in a film about what we know and what we think we know.
Robert Redford and Samuel L. Jackson in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
This movie surprised me. Just when I thought I was over the entire comic book genre, Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes along and rejuvenates my rapidly dwindling enthusiasm for superhero movies. The never ending and ever expanding Marvel Movie Universe just got a bit more fascinating. Chris Evans has really grown into the role and he leads a solid cast of big names in this thoroughly entertaining, and surprisingly topical, superhero flick.
Captain America's unabashed patriotism offers a nice contrast to Iron Man's hedonism. Tony Stark possesses cocky charm but as the Hugh Hefner of the superhero set his lifestyle is not something the average viewer can identify with. Steve Rogers has insecurities and lives a far more mundane lifestyle - when he's not busy on dangerous missions around the globe of course. He is a man that every guy can identify with and envy at the same time.
Redford gives one of his most colorful performances in years. At 77 he retains his commanding screen presence. That calm clarity and undeniable hint of entitlement he's always carried about suits the role. He's quite good as Alexander Pierce, old comrade of Nick Fury and member of the World Security Council (think NSA). Bob Redford and Sam Jackson (65) share a couple of memorable scenes (see photo) as two old soldiers who, like the men playing them, are crossing paths late in both their careers.
I really liked that so much of the action takes the form of hand to hand combat. This is the first superhero movie I've seen in a while where I didn't feel the CGI was overdone. The physical scrapes that Steve and Sam get in, both in and out of superhero drag, are real knuckledusters. As Eric wrote, blood is drawn on more than one occasion and they both kill when it's needed to accomplish a mission or to save a life.
Winter Soldier can be enjoyed as an entertaining big budget popcorn flick but it also has a bit of topical edge to it. The government's right to spy on its citizens in the name of national security is one of the hottest issues blazing across the news today. Winter Soldier exaggerates reality, as all superhero movies do, but it does deal with this issue in a straightforward manner.
One of my measures of how good a superhero movie is is whether or not I remember any plot details the day after I watch it. This isn't because my memory is that bad (although sometimes it is) but because there is a sameness to the stories and characters in the plethora of superhero movies that get released every year nowadays. By my unique system of measure, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is certainly among the better ones. I not only remember the storyline but I look forward to seeing what happens next; and I haven't felt that way about a big screen superhero in years.
Scarlett Johansson and Chris Evans in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
I agree that there has been a glut of superhero movies out of Hollywood in recent years. Ever since 2000's X-Men, they have been growing in numbers exponentially. Some day future generations will look back on this period and its fascination with superheroes in the same way we look back on the 1950s and its obsession with Westerns. The problem with so many of these types of movies is that they do start to get very repetitive. In Act 1 we learn the origin of the superhero or the super villain, or sometimes both. Act 2, the super villain holds the upper hand, often turning the public against our hero. Act 3, the hero summons his resources, reclaims his mojo, and gets into a gigantic CGI infested battle that probably does considerable damage to a major metropolitan area, although very little blood will be seen. The only things that differentiates each movie, if we're lucky, are the characters. This is why, in spite of the costume, superpowers and special effects, it still comes down to the writing with these movies, the same way it does with every other genre. Fortunately, as my brothers wrote, the writing behind this one isn't too bad.
Patrick mentioned the appeal of Steve Rogers being that the audience can relate to him and I agree with that somewhat. He's tall, good looking, and in great shape, but he manages to maintain a humility and insecurity that not only makes him a deeper character, but one that also plays into the character's past storyline. You get the impression that on the inside Rogers still thinks of himself as the 98 lb weakling who struggled and failed back in the 1940s.
Evans is helped by a strong supporting cast. He shares a nice chemistry with Johansson, but any spark of romance between them is kept very low key and only hinted at. His male co-star, Mackie, shares an equally nice chemistry with him, although Falcon isn't really given enough of a personality to fully round out his character. He's very much in the sidekick role. Jackson makes a great foil for Evans' cleancut hero. They're on the same side, but you just know that Fury will do things that need to get done that Captain America would find objectionable. And while I wasn't as impressed by Redford as Patrick was, he does do a good enough job, partly by simply bringing along the Redford baggage. His name adds a certain prestige to the proceedings.
The plot does try to be topical, but it also carefully avoids blaming the United States government. In the film it's not our government that's doing the spying, it's an international security group akin to the United Nations that has been infiltrated by a right-wing fascist group, who are doing the spying. The President of the United States is named, but never shown and is kept entirely blameless. It's fine for the story and helps tie the plot to the first installment, but it's not as brave a storyline as it could have been. It also leads to several characters proclaiming "Heil Hydra" at dramatic moments, which were the unintentionally funniest moments in the film.
I don't know that there was less CGI in this film than in other superhero films, but perhaps it was used more wisely. I think every movie after 2013's Man of Steel is going to seem as if it used very little CGI by comparison. Certainly the scenes of the final battle on the floating Helicarriers uses plenty of special effects. I do think I know what Patrick means though. Some of the best action takes place hand-to-hand, with super-strength, but little else. The fight on the elevator is one of the best such moments. And when there is violence, it feels impactful, somehow more real, if such thing is possible in a superhero movie. I mean, you know Captain America will survive, but he does end up hospitalized at one point.
It seems as though superhero movies are going to be around for a long time. Like all popular genres, they will someday fall out of favor, but for the foreseeable future we're stuck with them. Provided they can focus on the character in the suit more than the suit and the superpowers, I'll continue to enjoy them, even if they have started to lose their luster for me. I agree that this is an enjoyable film, but if you ask if I'm excited to see a sequel, my honest answer is it wouldn't bother me if they never made another one.
Photos © Copyright Marvel Entertainment (2014)