Captain America: The Winter Soldier is ... Splendid


Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Rated PG-13: For Violence

Running Time: 136 minutes (2 hours and 16 minutes)

Genre/s: Action, Adventure, Drama, Superhero, Thriller

Released on April 4, 2014 (US Release Date; Available for Worldwide Viewing)

Presented by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Inspired by the "Winter Soldier" story arc by Ed Brubaker

"Captain America" Created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

Writers: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

  • Chris Evans as Steven "Steve" Rogers / Captain America
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
  • Sebastian Stan as James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes / Winter Soldier
  • Anthony Mackie as Samuel "Sam" Wilson / Falcon
  • Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce
  • Samuel L. Jackson as Nicholas "Nick" Fury


"The price of freedom is high." The modern world is a complicated place to be. With wars brewing, with today's technology becoming tomorrow's doomsday devices, with conspiracies popping-up here and there, who can we trust in a world where there is no one left to be trusted? This is the question that Captain America: The Winter Soldier asks the audience.

In this film, superhero, Avenger, and recently inducted S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Steve Rogers, played by Evans (Gifted) joins fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague Natasha Romanoff, played by Johansson (Isle of Dogs) in uncovering the darkest secrets lurking with their agency. Their efforts in search of the truth leads them to cross paths with the enigmatic assassin known only as the "Winter Soldier," played by Stan (The Martian), forcing Steve to confront the demons of his past.

After Captain America: The First Avenger featured the titular hero in his traditional Second World War setting, the filmmakers were left with a challenge on what to do with the character next. As the setting has been updated to the modern era, writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and The Russo Brothers, the directors, were left with the challenge on conceptualizing the next adventure for the Star-Spangled Man with the Plan. The result is a movie that does not focus on the mystical threat, but instead on very real problems that we all fear in our everyday lives such as government conspiracies, political sabotage, and urban terrorism. The film makes perfect use of its superhero source material by emphasizing more on Steve's more optimistic worldview, in contrast to society's more cynical outlook, by having our main protagonist come to terms with the changes of time, with a healthy dose of political commentary in the process. 

Here, Steve, after being thawed from his six decades of cryogenic freezing, struggles with keeping-up with the changes in the world. He, played so effortlessly by the complete embodiment of the character, Chris Evans, clings so desperately to any sort semblance to his idealistic time period, from having to have regular visits to his former lover and S.H.I.E.L.D. co-founder, Margaret "Peggy" Carter, played by Hayley Atwelll (Cinderella Remake), who is now dying and is diagnosed with a severe case of the Alzheimer's Disease, to joining a government agency just to combat more political enemies, much like the one he fought in the war. He even visits the local museum, just to get a sense of nostalgia.

However, Steve does try to adjust to his new setting, as hinted by the humorous gag of him listing all of the pop-culture sensations that he has to experience for himself, including Star Wars. He even manages to sympathize with former para-rescue man Sam Wilson, who is portrayed at the character's best by Mackie, complete with a compelling backstory about being a survivor in the battlefield. Visually, there is something that helps further cements the movie's theme of adaptation to changes, and that is the updated, more tightened fight choreography. Not only does this show that, over the short time that he has out of the ice, Steve has managed to adjust a little, this hints to the audience the full capabilities that Steve has as a superhero. He might be strong and can carry a giant metallic Frisbee, but he is also very agile and reflexive. Seriously, a lot of the action scenes are very well choreographed, with my personal favorite being the intense elevator fight sequence and the introductory fight against a pirate named Georges Batroc, played by real-life mixed martial artist George St. Pierre (Never Surrender). Though admittedly the fight scenes are hyper-edited to point of nausea, as noted by the multiple, over-edit cuts in the film, the cameras at least keep it focused on the action and the energy. And yes, Henry Jackman's underrated score completely fits this film's espionage tone, with among my favorites being his score for the highway fight scene.

For Steve, the lines between good and evil are further blurred when he learns about S.H.I.E.L.D.'s latest security initiative known as Project: Insight. With Project: Insight, S.H.I.E.L.D. would be able to make use of algorithms to kill any potential threats based on people's records, with the use of three, heavily-armed Hellicarriers. Steve dislikes this idea, noting this as a sign of inciting fear. But Steve has his concerns rebuffed by Nick Fury, who is given much more depth and acted in a better fashion from Samuel L. Jackson. Plus, his improvised monologue pertaining to his grandfather also did help establish Fury's interesting perspective more, and his stance is all the more conflicted by having to work with somewhat shady figures like Black Widow, who is also given more depth, if just a little, and is given much more emotional resonance than before by Scarlett Johansson. 

Steve's struggles to adjust to the present is made even more complicated with the revelation that HYDRA, the very enemy that he fought to destroy in the 1940s, has been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. ever since the agency's inception. Robert Redford's Alexander Pierce is the leader of this latest incarnation, and Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes, now rechristened as the Winter Soldier, is his primary assassin. Steve's past has literally come back to haunt him, and not only have they returned to smite their will all over the world, they have changed. No longer are they the typical would-be world conquerors straight-out of retro comicbooks and cartoons, they are now, in their own way, a radical peacekeeping organization hellbent on actual order. Order through chaos, at least. This startles Steve as though sinister their actions might be, what they have done have truly shaped centuries, as elaborated by the charismatic Redford. Captain America, for the first time in his entire life, is forced to combat enemies who might actually have a point.

Despite the many valid points that Pierce makes, including that being able to predict and eliminate potential threats before said threats manage to perform a crime could reduce the chaos, Steve relents, knowing that there is no peace if one maniacal agency is at the top of the food chain. He resists, and in a symbolic action, Steve uses the costume that he wore back in the Second World War, which he retrieved from the Smithsonian Museum where an amusing Stan Lee cameo is featured. He then rallies all of his friends with a speech that reminds them and the audience that yes, "the price of freedom is high." Though security would be achieved through violent and sinister means, none of them would make us any better than the very enemies that we strive to eliminate. Instead, it takes courage and honesty to bring about peace. As Councilman Singh, played by Bernard White (American Dreamz), said in a standout scene of him answering Pierce's question about potential threats, he would do anything to prevent any incident from happening, but "not if it's [Pierce's] switch."


With that said, Steve, sticking to his beliefs, battles all of HYDRA's personnel, with an army of loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in tow, even going as far as to do everything that he can to bring back his best friend from HYDRA's control. While Steve, Sam, and Natasha work to rescue the World Security Council, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s overseeing committee, we get to see how much is lost from this battle. The Russos Brothers definitely did an amazing job in highlighting the stakes by showing how numerous S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, from desk workers to air-units, fought and are killed in the process, all of which completely reflects Steve's harrowing reality. Not being the person to give-up, Steve stands his ground, even if Bucky nearly kills him. He succeeds in bringing him back, and the battle is won, but the consequences are high. Steve wakes-up from recovery to a world that is now filled with mistrust and paranoia. Things that he himself felt all throughout the film. But Steve is confident that he could still fight for what is right, despite being a stranger in a familiar land. After all, he is just getting started.

In all honesty, it is particularly difficult to find faults in this film, outside of the technicalities that I have previously mentioned. However, if there is one thing that is definitely worth the criticism, it would have to be the revelation of HYDRA's infiltration. Now, don't get me wrong. On first viewing, I actually enjoyed this twist, as this shows how much of a serious threat that the terrorist organization has become over the years (to the point that they might as well be this universe's iteration of the conspiracy theory-linked Illuminati). However, as with most commenters would say, the plot twist that an ancient, evil organization has been pulling the strings the entire time does reduce the conflict from "man versus society" to a more black and white "good versus evil" conflict. In other words, this renders an initially complex film to a basic superhero tale.

In one amazing, spine-chilling scene of Steve and Natasha encountering a secretly alive Arnim Zola, played by Toby Jones (The Hunger Games Series), one of HYDRA's top scientist back in the war, who has since transferred his consciousness to a supercomputer, reveals that HYDRA has been "feeding chaos, reaping war" for the world to surrender its freedom willingly. They allowed deaths and disasters to happen, and they continue to do so for HYDRA to slowly take control of everyone through fear. Again, I personally believe that this is a decent compelling twist that truly illustrates the terrors of a malevolent invisible hand orchestrating events in their favor, but perhaps it would have been better if Alexander Pierce and his cohorts are not affiliated with HYDRA.  We could have Pierce, instead a paranoid government figure and radical peacekeeping officer, become unwittingly a pawn in a more complex scheme due to HYDRA's manipulations. This way, the moral argument about "the ends justifying the means" would remain intact, while expanding further the threat that is HYDRA.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier has and will always have a special place in my heart for being the film that truly elevated the Marvel Cinematic Universe to more thought-provoking and bolder heights. We have interesting and compelling villains, in-depth characterization for all figures involved, and an overall well done modernization of a seemingly outdated source material, which could have been particularly dull if it were not for the efforts put into the filmmaking process. Though some cliches are apparent, and some characters such as the Winter Soldier himself and Crossbones are not as fleshed-out as they should, with the conflict between Steve and Bucky being completely downplayed in favor of the HYDRA story, and though there are some flaws in the technicalities, this is definitely a major turning point for the franchise. One that is also aided by an ever-charismatic cast of actors. I hereby grant this film a score of 21/25 (Awesome!)

I still highly regard this as my favorite MCU film of all time. The fact that it even managed to reintroduce a Golden Age superhero to modern audiences, complete with some intriguing spins and commentaries is something that should truly be commended for. As we conclude this review, feel free to take a look at three of my personal favorite scenes from the film. Stay tuned for more Dateline Movies!




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