Review: 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' is Marvel's Best to Date
by Jeremy Kirk
April 4, 2014
It's high time comic book movies gave us something serious and incredible. Who am I kidding? Marvel is doing it and doing it well, hitting a steady stride of peaks and valleys on their way to the next big cataclysmic movie event, The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Before we get there though, we have the second adventure of America’s favorite patriot, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an exceptional stopping point along the way. Hungry for a cool, conspiracy theory mystery? It’s here. Got a hankering for awesome, big budget, heavy-hitting, and high-flying excitement that barely lets up? We've got that. Ready for - yes, we keep saying this - the best Marvel movie yet? Captain America: The Winter Soldier stakes that claim too.
Onto that cool, conspiracy theory mystery. It's two years after the events in The Avengers, two years after Steve Rogers, super soldier extraordinaire played by Chris Evans, has been thawed out of his icy hibernation. Thanks to the former, Rogers isn't entirely sure he trusts or is still comfortable working for the secret government agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. That discomfort grows stronger when Rogers' latest assignment, rescuing a S.H.I.E.L.D. seas vessel from a group of pirates, appears to be more than just a simple rescue.
It's not long before Rogers uncovers plans S.H.I.E.L.D. has called Project Insight, turning three of their Helicarriers into floating, eye-in-the-sky security systems with instant judge, jury, and executioner capabilities on board. It's not much longer after that before an attempt is made on the life of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), an attack from a mysterious, Russian assassin known as The Winter Soldier. Rogers goes on the lam, digging even deeper into S.H.I.E.L.D.'s secrets and working towards avenging the attack on Fury's life with the aid of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a former paratrooper struggling with PTSD (Anthony Mackie). Don't worry, though, he gets a cool superhero look and name before long.
That's one thing you notice while watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, everyone is a comic book character at this stage of the game. Marvel has done an incredible job expanding their cinematic universe with each, new movie, building the characters right along with the world in which they inhabit. Like the ever-expanding Star Wars universe, it takes some time keeping the minor roles separate, but The Winter Soldier serves as a testament to how good screenwriting can pack the load of information and heaps of characters found in the comic books into the film tightly and accessibly.
It's also a testament to how big-budget blockbusters can still keep us at the edge of our seat based on story and suspense. The Winter Soldier plays like your typical, comic book mystery. Explosive characters travel from point to point, collecting information about their potential enemies while the big reveal of the mystery has pretty much already happened in the audience's mind.
The Winter Soldier doesn't bring giant twists that will shake the Marvel world to its core. In fact, much of what serves as "mystery" in this film is fairly easily predicted, the true identity of The Winter Soldier being one of those. This is especially the case if you have even a rudimentary knowledge of Captain America's universe. Nonetheless, the screenwriting team here keep every plot point, every detail about their characters, and, yes, every reveal in the highest regard. Even if something is predictable, Captain America: The Winter Soldier handles it in the most earnest of ways.
That's not to say that's how you need to be viewing the film, though. It does strive for something more than surface-level entertainment, but entertaining its audience seems to be where Marvel strives effortlessly. Amidst the minor twists and conspiracy theory suspense, the action sequences of The Winter Soldier come at us left and right. The pacing of the film's action, like the attacks that come from the Winter Soldier character, grows to relentless levels with everyone from Fury to Black Widow to Cap himself front and center when it all goes down. It's comic book-level excitement, with giant masses of metal falling out of the sky and insane waves of violence threatening our superheroes.
The nature in which the directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, shoot the action is very grounded, though, more in tune with the film's Man Vs. Big Brother story arc. Even when Mackie's ex-paratrooper steps in front of his metallic wings and starts calling himself Falcon, the film holds a certain level of reality in the way it all works.
That reality is aided by the performances, Evans having come into his own as a perfect balance of extraordinary actor and handsome A-lister long ago. In just a few years, Evans and Captain America have grown in so may ways, almost threatening to strip the title of "Leader" away from Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark/Iron Man. They're all the same guy, anyway, right? Evans is charismatic, but not in an egotistical way, and his believability with both serious dramatic sequences and awesome action bits alike is the very reason he's vying for that title. It's a series of performances that make you wish he'd stick around this role for years to come, but, alas, that's another disappointment to discuss another day.
Thankfully, the people who won't be going anywhere for a while are still working at an incredibly impressive level. Johansson and Jackson have achieved an undeniable level of comfort in their respective roles, and you start to wonder if that idea for a S.H.I.E.L.D. spinoff movie isn't such a bad idea. Mackie is great as both Sam Wilson and Falcon. Even Frank Grillo as a badass S.H.I.E.L.D. operative gets a few character moments. The biggest casting shocker here, though, is Robert Redford as the corporate head of the espionage agency. He's more than solid, clearly giving more of a shit about these Helicarriers than he did that boat in All is Lost.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier also brings a ton of cameos to the table, another trademark of these epic-budgeted, comic book extravaganzas. The film never questions what it is, never tries to be anything different. But the conspiracy story at hand and the amazing adventure that gets wrapped up around it reach unquestionable levels of excitement. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is just the latest stopping point while Marvel builds to its next, billion-dollar idea, but the studio has perfected their technique of both working towards the future while still caring about the present. Ultron can wait. The Winter Soldier isn't done kicking ass yet.
Jeremy's Rating: 9 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk
Reader Feedback - 13 Comments
Aside from the Avengers, The First Avenger is my favourite Marvel film(not including Spider-Man 2, no one does) and I cannot wait to see the winter soldier today!
Jon Odishaw on Apr 4, 2014
I was already looking forward to this movie, and based on this review I am even more ready to see it. Thanks for providing a good review without major spoilers or plot reveals.
theslayer5150 on Apr 4, 2014
HOLLLLLLLY SHIT this movie was f**king great! Truly blown away. Will not disappoint! Jeremy Kirk is right, Marvel's best to date.
Rock n Rollllll on Apr 4, 2014
10/10 Review for a 8/10 movie.
ProjectionistHP on Apr 4, 2014
Well, after second watch, I'm going to agree with Jeremys 9/10
ProjectionistHP on Apr 4, 2014
This was probably the third best MCU film. Iron Man and The Avengers were 1 and 2 for me.
Ronnie Deori on Apr 4, 2014
Just exactly how does one "strive effortlessly"?
S freud on Apr 4, 2014
I've been extremely disappointed in all the big budget movies that have come out since that magical 2008 year where we got Iron Man, TDK, and Hellboy 2. I wasn't impressed with Thor 1 and 2, IM 2 and 3 or Cap 1 but I'm happy that you and others like Cap 2 and agree with me that CA:tWS is one of the best movies Marvel has made yet. IMO it's hands down the best Marvel movie after The Avengers and Iron Man. I really think it is the MOST complete and well made movie in the entire MCU.
si1ver on Apr 4, 2014
(I published this comment in another post too but actaully it fits here better ) If you give 9/10 or 10/10 to this , then how much you gave to The Dark Knight ? Hellboy ? Watchmen ? Man of Steel ? as for those who are saying : Best Marvel movie ! did you watched The Incredible Hulk - Xmen - Blade ? again with my respect for all your opinions but this movie was really boring. Edit: I forgot to list Iron Man !
alin2014 on Apr 5, 2014
Ummm.... Yeah, I Did see The Incredible Hulk, X-Men, and Blade. Not only is this better than those by a long shot, but I'm pretty sure they are referring to the Marvel Studios movies.
Chazzy on Apr 5, 2014
Caught WINTER SOLDIER last week here in South Korea. Damn such a badass film. I loved. The only weak spot was the Winter Soldier's backstory...everything else was excellent.
DAVIDPD on Apr 5, 2014
The Winter Soldier got an entire film dedicated only to his backstory.
MattPeloquin on Apr 6, 2014
Solid solid flick. While I wouldn't go so far as the BEST Marvel flick, it was good.
avconsumer2 on Apr 14, 2014
Sorry, no commenting is allowed at this time.