‘Captain America’ ends brutal winter with summer blockbuster action


Courtesy IMDb

Captain America

By Josh Weitzel

Marvel Comics’ ever-expanding movieverse has been impressive since its arrival on the big screen six years ago and what makes “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” successful is its contribution to the franchise. Unlike other sizable movies, this gripping story builds directly off the alien siege of New York City, as told in “The Avengers.” “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” takes place two years later. 

Captain America, AKA Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), continues to work for the secret organization known as SHIELD, along with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). After a rescue operation, Rogers discovers Fury has been lying about his intentions, forcing Rogers to reevaluate whom he can trust. Shortly thereafter, Fury is attacked by a mysterious menace known as the Winter Soldier, leaving SHIELD compromised and Rogers on the run, forcing him to forge new alliances to take down the threat. 

Throughout the film, Rogers and his newfound allies continually find themselves backed into a corner by the secret organization that challenged SHIELD. 

Suspenseful editing builds the sense of betrayal. In one scene, Rogers finds himself cornered in an elevator by SHIELD agents. The elevator continues to fill, stopping at each floor as it descends. Rogers realizes they are in a tight spot when he notices one of the agents is quietly readying a weapon. When the elevator is full, the subdued scene erupts into a brawl, with the disguised enemy agents attempting to capture Rogers. This scene creates a sense of paranoia that espionage movies typically reflect, though generally unexplored in comic book films. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, known for their work on TV shows “Community” and “Arrested Development,” create a false sense of security before unleashing beautifully cinematic, jaw-dropping action. 

Like other Marvel movies, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” boasts solid performances from the cast. Evans, Johansson, Jackson and Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), expertly reprise their roles from previous Marvel films. Anthony Mackie of “8 Mile” and “The Hurt Locker” fame plays Sam Wilson, an ex-U.S. soldier who befriends Steve Rogers early in the film and eventually becomes a gun-toting paratrooper known as Falcon who uses a jetpack to soar through the sky. 

Iconic actor Robert Redford, who is new to the Marvel universe, plays Alexander Pierce, one of SHIELD’s senior agents with a dangerous secret agenda. It is clear Redford takes a few notes from his older body of political thriller work, using his magnetic personality to woo the audience. 

Where “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” really succeeds is in the character development of its villain. While few Marvel movies have truly threatening villains, the Winter Soldier is pretty terrifying. In their first encounter, Rogers chases after the Winter Soldier and attempts to attack by hurling his shield, but the Winter Soldier snatches it out of the air like a Frisbee, throwing it right back before leaping off a building to make his escape. He is powerful, agile and sports a metal arm that is as indestructible as Captain America’s shield. 

The Winter Soldier is one of the few central villains in the Marvel universe that feels like a true adversary as he and Captain America are polar opposites. Mirroring the superhero/villain dynamic found in most action movies, Captain America works to preserve absolute good while the Winter Solder works to cause havoc. Both are equally skilled combatants and watching them duke it out is one of the movie’s highlights. 

Although “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is high on the list of Marvel movies, it is not perfect. At 136 minutes, the film becomes repetitive as it nears the final act. Many of the fight scenes are composed of intense and exciting fisticuffs but do not vary throughout the film. The final act, which should build to the best possible action scene, devolves into the same monotony that occurs earlier in the film. 

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is without question one of the best movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Deconstructing the foundations of SHIELD and leaving Captain America without an organization to turn to puts the Marvel universe in a bold new state. The Russo brothers have left their mark on the series by taking a big leap in the right direction, and residual tremors from this film will certainly be felt in future installments of the franchise. 

While it may be reminiscent of a traditional action movie heavy on special effects, tense action sequences and witty humor, it is the intriguing story and fearsome villain that set the bar impossibly high for future Marvel movies.