Captain America: The First Avenger, while standing as a solid and relatively faithful entry into the Marvel universe for Steve Rogers, was, in many ways, one of the lesser films to emerge from the Marvel Universe at that time, failing to match the energy and pizzazz of films like Iron Man, Thor, or The Incredible Hulk. His was a faithful origin story but lacked the proverbial and, in some cases, literal punch of his more flashy counterparts. Yet, with the release of The Avengers, Cap got a little more confident, battling alien bad guys alongside demi-gods, radioactive freaks, and marvels of modern science with the best of him, slowly coming to grips with the new millennium.
Now, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Captain is back and this time he’s helming a movie that honors his legacy, his heroic nature in full display as he sets out to save the world once again. This time around, he’s dealing full force in a world unlike his native 1940s and, while he’s warming to the transition, life is still very different for Steve Rogers (Chris Evans.) He’s saved the world for the second time and is still a soldier, embarking on the random rescue mission while working for direction Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. And it’s upon one of those rescue missions that things take a unique turn.
That turn leads to Rogers questioning Fury about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s intentions and when those intentions are made fully clear to the Captain, he’s put in a tough situation, believing that the agenda the agency is embarking one is morally wrong, enforcing peace through fear. Heading up that agenda is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who may have a few more layers to him than appear at first. And when Fury is attacked by a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and shot and left for dead, the conspiracy is in full motion.
The film is a real step forward in moviemaking for the Marvel team, the storyline playing out with great political intrigue while allowing for plenty of visceral action and adventure. The action is intensified from the Captain’s previous efforts and while before he felt like a guy who was just a little juiced up, this time out he’s far more superhero-like, in a good way. Evans’ acting is much more on point as well, not feeling quite as wooden as in prior attempts. Much of that is due to the interplay between his character and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), whose considerable acting chops play well here as her character’s arc helps to flesh out Rogers nicely.
Also receiving more of a role this time out is Nick Fury himself. While we’ve seen him mostly manipulate from behind the sidelines, this time around we get to see Fury in some tight spots and his response is just how you’d expect him to react, with great Sam Jackson aplomb and plenty of firepower. He also gets to chew up some scenes alongside Redford, whose presence easily gives this film greater gravity, his delivery spot on. Add in the presence of Sam Moore/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who serves as both sidekick and comic relief to Rogers and you’ve got a barn burner of a movie.
In addition, the film boasts some solid themes of redemption and honor throughout as Rogers consistently holds to his position as a resolutely honest hero, telling Natasha, “You know I always tell the truth.” And his faithfulness and good heart are shown even as he refuses to kill an enemy, helping to free them from immediate death, even at potentially great cost to himself. Yes, it’s a message that’s a bit muddied by the scores of others he dispatches before this one but the concept and heartbeat hold true.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a huge step forward in the Marvel moviemaking realm and may possibly be one of the top films they’ve brought to screen yet. A plausible story, solid acting, and dynamic direction from the Russo brothers all come together to create a comic book masterpiece that will have you wanting to come back again and again.