THE ROAD TO ‘INFINITY WAR’ – ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

Captain America leads in what might still be the finest MCU film to date!

Review by J.T. Johnson

ORIGINAL RELEASE DATE: March 13, 2014
DIRECTORS: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Trent Opaloch
WRITERS: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
MUSIC: Henry Jackman

While I was sitting down watching “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” for the purposes of this review, I came to one awesome conclusion. After almost four years, this film hasn’t lost its edge and it may very well be the best film in the MCU to date. It does this by providing plenty of solid action, a great story, pitch perfect performances and it transcends the superhero genre altogether.

In this film, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a man out of time. He is from the greatest generation and doesn’t particularly like the ultra secret organization known as S.H.I.E.L.D. As he mentions in the movie, he only joined up because he discovered that his lost love Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) was one of the founders.

S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reveals to Captain America a new plan to release three new Helicarriers that can prevent threats before they even happen. Soon enough, though, a mysterious soldier that has plagued the world for several generations attacks Fury. This new foe is known only as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and after the attack, S.H.I.E.L.D. claims that they don’t want Rogers getting in the way, so he and his partner Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) go off the grid with few allies to back them up.

The great thing about the films in the MCU is that the filmmakers soon started to get inspiration from other genres in order to tell specific stories. For example, “Iron Man” is a sci-fi film reminiscent of 1980s action films such as “RoboCop”, a film that director Jon Favreau himself cited as an inspiration. The films in the Thor series are fantasy films and “Captain America: The First Avenger” was a WWII film with a heavy dose of “Indiana Jones” thrown in for good measure.

“The Winter Soldier” is a straight up spy film, inspired by more serious affairs such as “Three Days of the Condor” and more action oriented films such as the James Bond or the “Mission: Impossible” series. The Russo Brothers know what kind of film that they needed to direct and they succeeded on pretty much every level.

The action scenes are plentiful and well choreographed. Highlights include Cap infiltrating a ship at sea, Nick Fury’s explosive car chase, Cap’s now famous elevator fight and the big finale at the end which is huge but doesn’t go over the top and feel out of place in the movie. The villains of the film are also game changers and from this point on, the entire dynamic of the MCU changed forever.

The performances are also spot on as we see familiar faces such as Jackson’s Nick Fury and Johansson’s Black Widow. Evans was a surprisingly good pick for Rogers and his performances have always been good as he tries to be the patriot he has always wanted to be and the man who has to face an organization that is in to some shady stuff. Still, the standout performance comes from the title character.

Stan plays the Winter Soldier and he has understandably changed since the last time we saw him. It was hinted at in “The First Avenger” that Bucky was being experimented on and in this film, we get more of that story. Stan plays a brainwashed soldier that starts to remember but his handlers won’t let it happen as his brain is zapped in order to make him forget his friend.

Stan was great in “The First Avenger”, but this is his story and it is great to see him step up his game and give the perfect performance of the Winter Soldier. It is even more impressive when considering that the Winter Soldier isn’t exactly a man of words. So, most of Stan’s performance has to come from his facial expressions and his precise actions as he carries out his deadly missions.

Writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s hands were tied somewhat with “The First Avenger” because they had to get Rogers into the 21st century so that he could lead the Avengers. Here, though, they have no such restrictions and they were able to stretch what it means to be a superhero film. I’m sure if I nitpicked, I could find something wrong with this film, but I just enjoyed it too damn much and “The Winter Soldier” is still at the top of the already amazing Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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