Movie Review - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Updated: Mar 12, 2023
I keep waiting for Marvel to trip up.
It’s not because I’m a DC fanboy. It’s not because I’m one of those bitter internet nerds that have to tear apart something that doesn’t live up to impossibly high expectations. It’s simply that the law of averages states that there has to be some sort of slip up here…something that shows just the slightest hint of weakness. I know a lot of people thought it would be the Thor franchise, but that gave us Tom Hiddleston. I know that some would argue it’s the Hulk, but personally, I didn’t see anything wrong with Phase 1’s Incredible Hulk…and then there was the Hulk’s role in the Avengers. I always figured Cap for the weak link, to be honest, much for the same reasons that people turn their noses up at Superman. Captain America has always felt a little outdated to me. I mean, the story concepts are fine, really…man out of time and hell, I’d be a hypocrite if I poo-pooed another idealistic superhero. Maybe it’s the idea of “rah-rah” patriotism that is typically associated with him. I mean, sure, that kind of patriotism works in the trappings of World War II (and hence why I felt the first movie worked), but anything post-Nixon? Not so much. Captain America: The Winter Soldier goes way, way, waaaaay out of its way to show just how wrong I am on every single item brought out in this paragraph…and I couldn’t be happier.
Many of the reviews I’ve read of the movie have said that it harkens back to the taut political thrillers of the 70s. I’m not sure I can say that…or if I would say that. Sure, there’s intrigue, betrayal, brain-washing, manipulations, webs and so forth. But I’d liken it more to a Bourne (well, okay, I’ve only seen the first one…so again I’m not exactly on the surest of footing on that one) or a serious Bond film. What I mean by that is that yes, the film is over the top…but at no point do you stop and say “Aw, no way!” The movie sinks its fangs in you from the start and doesn’t let you go for a single instant. While the subtitle of the film, “The Winter Soldier”, refers to one of Ed Brubaker’s arcs in the more recent Cap comics, I have to admit that I was impressed that the story almost seems to be more derived from the 80s miniseries “Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D”, only replacing Fury with Cap.
Needless to say, I don’t want to talk too much about the plot for risk of giving anything away. Hell, just pointing out those two source storylines definitely provides the framework of the movie…all that’s left is to fill in the details. Some things to point out though. First, I love the way they worked in Armin Zola…that was great. Second, yeah, I can understand why everyone’s calling for Black Widow to get her own movie…well, aside from the fact that I can’t think of single nerd that’s going to turn down seeing more of Scarlett Johansson in a skintight leather (or whatever in the hell it’s made of) outfit. Third, it merits asking…taking into account that Chris Evans has said he’ll retire from acting after the third Cap movie combined with what eventually ended up unfolding in the comics as a result of introducing the Winter Soldier, well, one does have to wonder how many movies did Marvel sign Sebastian Stan up for. Oh, one last thing…given the events of the movie...I wonder how this will impact a particular Marvel TV show.
Going into casting, well, why don’t we talk about Robert Redford right off the bat, eh? I’d be really interested to see how he speaks of the movie in interviews or on the special features of the eventual home video release. He did a great job with the role of Alexander Pierce. My only curiosity is that I’d like to know how he felt about how the movie’s story almost telegraphed the role he was to play in things. Anthony Mackie does an exceptional job as Sam Wilson aka The Falcon. The highest compliment I can pay him is that his performance made me want to see more of the character…and it looks like I’ll get my chance in the third movie. Samuel L. Jackson once again does the honors as Nick Fury…and there’s a heck of a nod to one of his past films for those quick enough to catch it. I was happy to see Hayley Atwell back briefly. Good to see them tie up that loose end. My only regret? Well…let’s just say she really stood out in the first film, “if you know what I mean and I think you do”. Frank Grillo made a great villain in that I really hated the character. As for Stan’s Winter Soldier…well, there’s not a lot to say right now. Yes, there was acting involved, and as I’ve said in the past, sometimes it’s enough for an actor to not draw any negative attention to him or herself. He brought the character to life and didn’t screw it up…so there you go. That sounds harsher than I mean it as I reread that sentence. What I mean to say is that he was fine…didn’t do anything back, but I doubt we’ll be seeing him at the Oscar podium for this role. I think what I said above regarding Black Widow meriting a solo movie speaks of Scarlett Johansson’s performance and I’ll just echo what everyone else has said about Chris Evans….Marvel found the perfect person for Cap and that definitely continues to be the case with this movie.
So, short version? Marvel continues to show why their movies are so successful by displaying that superhero movies can evolve to tell stories in other genres…in this instance, the political action/thriller. And there’s no sign of weakness. Captain America: The Winter Soldier earns the praise that most reviews have given it. Definitely worth checking out.
Oh, one last quick thing...as a former resident of Northeast Ohio, I gotta point out...MAN they shot A LOT of this in Cleveland. Hell, I was tempted to call family just to ask if they'd seen me while I was back in town! Fortunately, upon leaving the theatre, I can assure you that I was nowhere near that vicinity, as The Brain would say...