Captain America: The Winter Soldier is perhaps Marvel Studios’ most intricately crafted film yet. The set-up is straightforward enough: Cap and Black Widow are working for Nick Fury when S.H.I.E.L.D. comes under attack. Unsure of whom, if anyone, to trust, they must uncover a hidden threat before it destroys them all. The film not only serves as a strong follow-up to Cap’s first outing, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Joss Whedon’s ensemble juggernaut Avengers Assemble, it also has the strongest ties to and most profound impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe at large. The repercussions of the events of this film will reverberate throughout all of Marvel’s properties.
Perhaps more to the point, the film is one of, if not the strongest individual installments to date. It is one part spy thriller, one part character journey, one part visceral action movie, and one part straight-up superhero adventure film, The Winter Solider hits all of the right notes and serves as an example of the very best of what comic book movies have to offer. The scale of the film alone is unprecedented for Marvel. If feels as though the studio has taken every lesson they’ve learned in terms of how to construct and effectively execute an action sequence and integrated it into one elaborate and gorgeous piece of spectacle. The Winter Soldier moves at a pulse-pounding pace and you never gets the sense that even one minute of screen time was wasted. Car chases, hard-core hand-to-hand, aerial dogfights and gritty gun battles are interwoven with a multi-layered script that combines elements of at least three genres.
Character isn’t sacrificed for the sake of plot, though. The Winter Soldier is a well-balanced film that serves up comedy, drama, and action. The big and small moments are equally thick with tension and there is some powerful development in this film. In fact, Chris Evans’ Captain America in some ways becomes the most relatable of the Marvel heroes in this film, which is of course a bit odd given his origin.
There was a promise of an arc for him that began in Avengers Assemble and really pays off here. The Winter Soldier explores the cost of being Cap: a man out of time, who in many ways belongs to no one and nothing, in a wrenching manner. There is a sequence early on in the film that is particularly shattering to watch as a fan of these characters. We’re truly exposed to his vulnerability in this film, but he’s also ten times the ass-kicker. His shield has never been utilised so dynamically or been rendered as fiercely – something which was severely lacking from the previous instalment.
In general, the characters are given rich ground to play in, with the exception of a few who’ve been introduced in this film. Emily VanCamp’s Sharon Carter is only afforded cursory treatment, and while Anthony Mackie gives a strong showing as Falcon, fans (myself among them) will likely enjoy his presence, his purpose is primarily to serve as Cap’s sidekick. Rogers’ true partner in the film is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow.
Building on what Whedon established for her in Avengers Assemble, The Winter Soldier continues what is evolving into a fascinating character trajectory. She and Cap have a great repartee that never fails to bring a laugh but also hints at a deep, emotional connection growing in the background. She is a powerhouse unto herself as well, though. Widow, who’s already been endowed with fantastic comedic moments and a fascinating and full backstory as a character, is given a tremendous moral conflict here and left at a very interesting crossroads by the film’s end. In a sense, The Winter Soldier provides us with another stellar installment in Widow’s over-arching, intertextual solo-film.
Nick Fury is also granted scenes ripe with genuine emotion in the film. Humor, heart, and sincere fear are all in play and he too is brought to a surprising and exciting place by the story’s conclusion. In some ways, we see more from Fury here than in all of his previous appearances combined.
One very notable new addition is Robert Redford’s Alexander Pierce. This is more than just a cameo, and Redford, not surprisingly, turns in a great performance that illustrates that he is well aware of exactly the movie he’s in. The actor brings a gravitas that helps to sell the film as the ‘70s spy-thriller that it is. He brings the weight of his entire cinematic legacy with him, which also helps us to immediately buy into his character’s power and authority.
Finally, as to the Winter Soldier himself. It is no exaggeration to say that Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier is – other than Loki – Marvel’s most successful, and by far most terrifying, villain to date. Stan is both heartbreaking and legitimately chilling. He is relentless, feels unstoppable, is fundamentally the Terminator of the superhero world and is absolutely one of the most exciting new characters we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It will be interesting to see where Marvel Studios takes this character, and how true they stay to the source material. With Stan’s contract exceeding Evans’ one would maybe be right to assume that Bucky/ The Winter Soldier will take up the mantle of Captain America after Steve Roger’s inevitable exit from the Cinematic Universe.
With a mix of effective character moments, viscerally thrilling action, humor, intrigue, and surprising heart, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of Marvel Studios’ strongest entries to date. This one is in fact a game changer.
What did you think to Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Did it grab you at eery turn? Or did it throw you off completely? Let us know in the comments below