Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo
Written by: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders
Tactics and motivations for organizations change frequently to align with the times, or to match a new motivated interest. These adjustments do not always arrive with notice, which can make even the most loyal soldiers question their place in the grand scheme of things. By creating this internal shock and struggle, Captain America: The Winter Soldier proves to be operating on a refreshing level in this long-standing franchise.
Adjusting to modern life, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) works exclusively for SHIELD as an operative, where he begins to see that the behind the scenes operations may be unsavory. As attacks begin on his allies, he encounters the emergence of a ruthless killer called the Winter Soldier.
As seen in The First Avenger, Steve Rogers has proven to be the ultimate soldier and poster boy for his nation. He will go to battle for the causes he believes in and lead the charge with a sense of duty. Everything seemed so clear back in the 20th century, but his assimilation into this new era of espionage and battle has lifted a curtain he never wanted to see. Much of the struggles happening in this film occurs internally for Steve as he fights off this notion of being loyal in a world wrought with deceit. The Winter Soldier capably pares down the story into something incredibly grounded, until the end, of course.
The fight sequences and battles occurring throughout the film has a level of grit to it no other Marvel film has been able to achieve. When characters like Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) fight the Winter Soldier, I begin to fear for her life because he becomes such an adversary to take on. Sporting a metal arm and ruthless accuracy with firearms, he can crush the skull and take out whoever he wants at a moment’s notice. None of the characters in this feature have superpowers like Thor or Hulk. Outside of Steve Rogers being much stronger than others, this grounded feeling gives the story a spy thriller feel to it, which varies vastly to the films preceding and following it. If not for Captain America throwing his shield around, you could feasibly forget this story takes place within a universe dealing with gods and super-powered individuals.
With the third go-around as the character of Captain America, Chris Evans has fully honed in on the role and gives his best performance. He shoulders the responsibility of the internal struggle occurring while fully displaying the physical prowess necessary for such a character. He takes a character who may have been a bit dorky in his first two outings as someone with more complex capabilities and worth exploring on a deeper level. This film became the turning point for many with this character, which makes sense because layers begin to form and he becomes more than a boy scout.
Rounding out the cast are some regulars like Scarlett Johansson, Cobie Smulders, and Samuel L. Jackson reprising their roles, but the new additions leave their mark as well. Anthony Mackie plays Falcon, who shares the experience of serving in the army with Steve Rogers. He adds bits of humor while also serving as an efficient sidekick and someone who can relate to Rogers in ways other characters cannot. One of the biggest surprises the Marvel Cinematic Universe throws our way is the infusion of legendary actors like Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce. His character is fairly basic but I will never turn down the opportunity to see Redford in action.
Taking the helm for this feature are Joe and Anthony Russo, who have made their names known mostly for comedic work. Shifting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they take on a much more serious story and truly work wonders. They bring this grounded story into such an expansive universe, except when it arbitrarily decides it needs to flip the script and create a world-ending event. It’s a bit of a disappointment in that manner because everything about the story feels real and gritty from the characters selected to participate in it and the action sequences. However, the need to make this espionage thriller into something bigger makes me think they might as well have shot a laser up in the sky and brought aliens down once again.
Thrilling and meaningful, Captain America: The Winter Soldier feels refreshing as compared to the other others in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of the film brings forth this gritty world, which makes someone known as the ultimate American boy scout into a soldier actually having doubtful thoughts about his place in this new world. The action creates a spectacle in a smaller yet much more effective manner because each blow means something and will certainly leave a mark. It remains one of my favorites within this series of films and one with the ability to stand on its own.