The Marvel universe has been beautifully brought to life, repeatedly. While some adaptations have been more successful than others, Captain America: The First Avenger pleased comic book fans, critics and laymen equally. The homegrown, wholesome as apple pie Americana vibe pulsed throughout the film’s two hour run time. The villain was the clear-cut Hydra, a Nazi-adjacent foe working towards omnipotence, against the earnest and eager ultra-hero, Steve Rogers. The dichotomy was simple, and straightforward. Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes that earnest do-gooder, and gives him a moving target. Though his hyper-moralistic stance is at times far too simplistic and idyllic, the sentiment remains solid and subversive.
We find Capt. Rogers (Chris Evans) attempting to fit nicely into his daily life. An agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., he trains during the day, works when he’s called in, and does his duty to protect his people. Along the way, he absorbs some run of the mill peer pressure to get out of his cocoon, join the living, and give dating a shot. When a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship is taken hostage, Capt. Rogers and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are sent aboard with a team to rescue the hostages, and reclaim their vessel.
However, when Rogers discovers the Widow is on a separate set of orders, ultimately compromising the principle directive, he begins to question not only S.H.I.E.L.D.’s, but Nick Fury’s (Samuel L Jackson) motives as well. Confronting Fury as to his lack of trust in others, the onus is then put on the Captain to learn that universal trust isn’t always the best course of action. Sometimes those we place our deepest faith in are those with the most nefarious intentions.
Enter Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Fury’s boss, and the film’s newest prominent character. With Redford’s past participation in films like Three Days of the Condor and All the Presidents Men, his role in the film as resident turncoat comes as little surprise. For those unfamiliar with the comics, however, the depth of this treachery is shocking. We’re left with a sinking sensation of distrust, as NSA-level surveillance and military force merge to form a subversive nemesis.
There are a plethora of gems for fans of Captain America, and the Marvel universe, such as the titular character, mythical Hydra assassin the Winter Soldier. Easter eggs abound for those who know what they’re looking for, and for the rest of us, the laymen unfamiliar with the lore of the Captain, there’s much to learn.
The Winter Soldier offers a broad blend of content for all those involved. If you’re interested in non-stop action sequences, with incredible stunts, look no further. But this sequel stands strong offering more subversive content for those looking to delve a little deeper. It moves fast, and hits hard. The entertainment value is high.
The digital transfer for 3D viewing, however, is largely unnecessary. The shift in viewing is superfluous on its own, and unfortunately obstructs some of the fight scenes. The action is often blurred, and much of the impact is lost. Wherever possible, see the film in 2D. Not only will you miss nothing in terms of impact, but it will actually heighten the overall experience of the film.
Evans is incredibly earnest as Captain Steve Rogers, almost too much so. It’s likely the fault of the writing, as he’s undoubtedly the best man for the job. His grossly moralistic stance on surveillance and the liberty of the American public becomes droning at points, almost irritatingly naïve. The foe is real, make no mistake. There’s just something about the Captain’s approach to the issue that comes across as grating at times.
His performance alongside Sebastian Stan as the titular Winter Soldier, however, is excellent. Once the reality of their situation becomes apparent, the sugary do-gooder stance on politics goes out the window in favor of more levelheaded ground.
The Captain’s attempt to pull Bucky out from behind the mask of the Winter Soldier proves fruitless, as he has no recollection of who he is, or was. Stan articulates abject bleakness and single-minded drive with a vengeful aggression that dominates the screen.
As usual, Johansson looks stellar in a body suit, and fits neatly as the seductive and aloof Black Widow. Besides her killer fight scenes, she’s as vacant as ever. Redford, ever the pro, is unfortunately showing his age. It becomes a bit distracting, and makes this particular casting decision feel questionable. Perhaps fans of the comics would disagree, but from my stance, a layman in the Marvel world, he simply feels off. Anthony Mackie as newcomer Sam Wilson, on the other hand, adds some much appreciated zest to the cast. Veteran-turned-sidekick, we can look forward to seeing much more of this character in coming films.
While it leaves much of the warmth of the previous film behind, Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes the material to a much-needed darker place. The film is colder than the first, and resonates a sense of looming foreboding. You feel on edge and unsafe at every turn, questioning everyone’s motives, and trusting no one. As such, it’s hugely successful. It delivers the adrenaline, with a touch of depth, amounting to a well-rounded production. If there’s any advice to movie goers, it’d be to keep your eyes peeled for signs of what’s to come in Age of Ultron and future adaptations, opt for 2D, and, most importantly, don’t leave your seat until the credits have completely finished.