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Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Buckle up

Posted by on April 4, 2014 – 7:45 am

Captain America: The Winter SoldierSimply put, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best action-adventure films ever made and is the best time I’ve had at the movies since The Avengers. In fact, the new Cap film rivals and maybe even surpasses The Avengers in both dramatic story and charming wittiness, and it comes close to beating the super-team flick in overall wow factor as well. My recommendation is that you run to your local theater and “buckle” up for this awesome ride before you hear too much about it. (Don’t watch any more previews – don’t read anything else about this movie – just go – now.)

If you are a comics fan, especially a Captain America comics fan, then you are in for an enormous treat with this movie. And I hope that you can enjoy it with a crowd of moviegoers, as I did, who are cheering and applauding at all the right moments. There are only a handful of films where I have experienced that kind intoxicating cinematic hive-mind (i.e. Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Avengers) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier has made it onto that short list. What a thrill!

As much as I recommend that you avoid knowing too much about the movie, I’m still obligated to review the film and will attempt to do so without spoilers (a heroic task indeed.) So instead of ruining any surprises, let me just say that within this film there were characters I never expected to see, names dropped that I never expected to hear, and ties to the comic book source material that I never imagined would make it to the big screen. My only complaint? No Redwing (fist shaking to the Heavens!)

The Winter Soldier is based on the comic book storyline by Ed Brubaker, and we enter the cinematic world of Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) a couple of years after the Earth-shattering events of The Avengers.

Cap is still trying to adjust to the modern world, but he’s meeting new friends, like veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and growing his relationship with his Avengers partner, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson.) Unfortunately, he’s also growing weary of cleaning up after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s messes.

Captain America: The Winter SoldierSurrendering freedom in the name of security is the recurring theme of this film as Cap begins to question his role in the S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, becoming disillusioned by Fury’s unorthodox methods, which include a program that will have Hellicarriers monitor world activity and taking out the bad guys before they have a chance to act. Sound familiar to today’s headlines?

Robert Redford adds a lot of dramatic and political-thriller cred to this film, playing Alexander Pierce, a political liaison between S.H.I.E.L.D. and the “World Security Council.” And while The Winter Soldier does have a certain seventies style espionage tint to it, the movie never compromises its super-action origins.

So who is this Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan) and how does he fit into all of this? (You’ll definitely benefit from having watched, and paid close attention to, the first Captain America film, although it’s not a requirement to enjoy this new movie.) He’s a legendary assassin that is only spoken of in whispers, and he’s after Cap and the crew for reasons that you’ll need to see the film to find out.

Chris Evans still amazes me as Captain America. I felt he was perfectly cast as the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four films (one of the few good things about those movies), but I was outraged when he was given the part of Steve Rogers, feeling he was too much of a clown to ever pull it off. Boy was I wrong. He exemplifies everything about the red, white and blue hero that I know and love. Of course, part of the appeal is the excellent writing by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, but Evans makes Cap jump right off the pages of the comic books. It’s distressing to hear that Captain America 3 is rumored to be his last turn at the role.

Captain America: The Winter SoldierThe rest of the characters in this film are also superbly cast. Mackie completely embodies the spirit of Sam Wilson, better known in the comics as Cap’s partner, the Falcon (the first African-American superhero); Johansson is the perfect mix of baddass and beauty; and we already know that the modern Nick Fury was inspired by Samuel L. Jackson, not the other way around. There are many other players that I can’t mention without giving all the fun away, but comic fans especially will be very impressed.

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the special effects in The Winter Soldier are amazing, and of special note is the Falcon’s wings/jetpack, which is ingeniously designed and looks like it could and should exist in the real world. The fight and action sequences in this movie are also some of the best I’ve ever seen with incredibly complex choreography.

As a lifelong comics fan, I used to only dream about ever seeing these fantastic stories brought to life on the big screen; and now that many of them are being made, in the exceptional manner that they are, it is a life affirming experience. And as unbelievable as it sounds, I think Captain America: The Winter Soldier may have actually one-upped its own source material. Grade: 9/10

Photos © 2014 Marvel Studios