Marvel hits it out of the park with another installment into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Captain America: The Winter Soldier manages to pull of a successful paradigm shift in the MCU that will affect its other franchises and future films. On top of all of that it manages, first and foremost, to be an entertaining film and a strong entry into the existing collection of MCU films.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins with Cap putting his skills to use as an agent of SHIELD. With more down time, he’s adjusting to the future and all of the things he’s missed. He also meets a fellow war veteran, Sam Wilson, who talks to him about adjusting to his new life. Of course, down time is brief and Cap is soon summoned for a mission by Nick Fury. Along with Black Widow and a small team, Cap has to recover a SHIELD sub that’s been hijacked by pirates. During the mission, he finds out that Black Widow has been given separate orders by Fury, which ends up compromising the primary mission. Once he gets back to SHIELD, Cap has it out with Nick Fury about being able to trust the people he works with. Fury tries to convince him that there’s a reason for the way SHIELD does things and ends up showing Cap a fleet of helicarriers. The idea is that these helicarriers, using Tony Stark’s technology, will be able to stay in the sky indefinitely and launch preventative strikes against anyone or anything identified as a potential threat. Cap has an unfavorable reaction to this and tells Fury that this is ruling people through fear and not freedom, a mistake that he’s seen made already. This is one of the ideological issues with the movie, relating the idea of surveillance and how it can be used to spy on people or to help them. Neither Fury or Cap or inherently wrong in their thinking but, as the film points out, both of those thought processes have had consequences.
Something is also going on inside SHIELD. Black Widow’s job was to retrieve information from the sub. When Fury looks at the data, he sees something strange that leads him to try to delay the helicarriers launch until he can get to the bottom of it. He doesn’t get a chance to as he’s attacked by undercover agents posing as policemen. After a destructive chase through the city in a SUV that’s apparently equal parts car, tank and JARVIS; Fury is attacked by Winter Soldier in the middle of the street. He’s able to escape by cutting a hole through the street. Later he resurfaces in Steve Roger’s apartment, still heavily injured. Just as he’s trying to explain what’s going on, he gets shot. In response to the shooting, Cap’s neighbor burts into the room revealing that she’s an agent who’s been stationed there by Fury to watch him (this isn’t really helping his whole trust problem). Fury is taken to a hospital where he dies with Rogers, Romanoff and Maria Hill looking on. After Fury’s death Rogers is called in to meet with Alexander Pierce, a friend of Fury and another head of SHIELD. Pierce tries to find out what the information was that Fury had found, but Roger’s only tells him that he told him not to trust anyone. After leaving his meeting, Rogers is attacked by his former comrades and ends up going rogue along with Romanoff in order to find out what exactly has been going on. On top of that he has to contend with the Winter Soldier, an assassin that’s been killing people for the last 50 years.
Throughout the course of the movie it’s revealed that HYDRA, a Nazi organization thought long gone, has been slowly growing inside of SHIELD for decades. Without SHIELD realizing it, HYDRA has apparently had its hand in shaping world events over the years and has finally started to reveal itself. We also find out that Pierce, one of Fury’s best friends, has been one of the ones directing HYDRAs actions. Their goal is to hijack the helicarriers and to use them to eliminate any potential threat to HYDRA with a coordinated air strike that will kill tens of thousands of people all at once. Obviously, this isn’t an ideal situation for the rest of the world and Captain America along with Maria Hill, Black Widow and Sam Wilson (Falcon) have to try to stop Pierce and HYDRA from succeeding. Even if they can stop HYDRA the damage done to SHIELD as an organization will likely be impossible to recover from. On top of all of that, Cap has to deal with the Winter Soldier after finding out that he’s actually his old friend Bucky Barnes, who was turned into an assassin by the Russians after he was thought to have been killed on a mission.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, perhaps unexpectedly, charged with political and social issues. It’s starts early with Cap and Fury’s whole debate about freedom vs. fear when Fury unveils the idea of SHIELD being equipped with early strike capabilities. Obviously, it turns out to not be a great idea in the film, but I thought it was interesting to see that both sides acknowledged that there were problems with the idea of how to best fight against the forces they needed to without stepping over a line or giving up too much ground. I also really enjoyed the whole story that Fury told about his grandfather. I know it was just there to drive a point home, but it sounded like a really genuine anecdote. The other time it becomes a big issue is when the idea of HYDRA targeting potential threats comes in to play. Agent Sitwell lays it out for the heroes when he starts talking about all of the information that’s now available to us in the digital age. The idea that someone or something could use the technology we use to track us is a constant concern with the advancements of technology and the movie shows us an extreme case of where that could lead. It’s almost like what you’d hear happening in a movie set in a dystopian future, where this is the event that birthed the dystopia. The film also delves back into the idea of the state of the war veteran. Not in the way of PTSD as they did in Iron Man 3, but by looking into the idea of re-acclimation and survivor’s guilt. When Rogers meets Sam Wilson he doesn’t meet him as Falcon, but as a veteran who’s doing work down at the VA. He also meets him as a peer who can understand that Rogers is having a hard time adjusting to a world that’s unfamiliar to him.
Even though there’s lots of big events in the film (and they are handled well), I think the movie is at its best in the smaller moments where the characters aren’t superheroes, but just regular people. Especially the moments between Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers. In the middle of the movie it’s like we’re watching them go on a little day date when they’re dressed as civilians going through a mall and even kissing (but it’s just for cover). This is easily the most screen time Natasha Romanoff (not Black Widow) has gotten in the MCU. She even gets to have the Tony Stark moment at the end of the film where she gets to basically tell the government where they can stick it and walks out after defying them to arrest her or any of the members of SHIELD. In the bulk of the movie she’s partnered with Rogers and having her play opposite him works really well. Given her background she’s the opposite of Roger’s boyscout persona, even so, the two seem to have a brother/sister chemistry that’s on display throughout the movie. I really enjoyed the entire time that they spend together in the mall, the car and at the abandoned base as well as the running joke of her trying to set up Roger’s on a date. Those two aren’t the only ones who get these fun moments. There’s a lot of little jokes between Wilson and Rogers too. Those 3 really do run away with the movie, even without being super heroes.
As far as the superhero scenes of the movie go, they deliver as you’d expect from this franchise. The Winter Soldier character allows for some impressive urban warfare. The on the ground fighting between a plain clothes Steve Rogers and the Winter Soldier was really well done. A lot of the stuff they did with the cars was well done too. Not only the scene with Nick Fury’s ridiculous car but the middle of the street battle that starts with Agent Sitwell being thrown from a car. The bigger scenes were also….you know what, it would just suffice to say that all of the action in the movie is good. I was a little curious of how they were going to make the Falcon character look since his original costume is very bright and the type of thing that could only exist in a comic book. They chose to make him look more like a military specialist than a superhero which worked with the look of the other characters. The action was really just the last piece of the puzzle for me. It helps round out a really solid and entertaining movie that I was very entertained by and didn’t really have any problems with.
Marvel also took an interesting step with this movie by not only revealing HYDRA but by basically disbanding SHIELD. SHIELD has really been the organization tying everything together in the MCU, even going back into the past with their founders being involved with Captain America. If that organization no longer exists then who will fill the void that they’ve left? Will the Avengers just assemble themselves from now on or will some other group or threat be the thing that brings them together? When the movie ends it’s clear that the members of SHIELD aren’t going to just stop doing work even if they do disappear for a little while. Obviously, the events of this movie will have a direct impact on the MCU TV show, Agents of SHIELD. Beyond that, it’ll be interesting to see how far reaching the destruction of SHIELD will be considering that the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie is on the horizon.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- The story of this movie makes it a cornerstone in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- The heroes in the movie feel more like genuine people than characters
- The action scenes are more
- The movie doesn't stand up as well without the rest of the MCU around it