Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
based on the Captain America comic books by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
I liked Marvel’s first entry in this series, Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and surprisingly, this darker sequel is even better. Whereas the first film was an origin story, this one presents Captain America (Chris Evans) as a fish-out-of-water soldier in present-day Washington, D.C. He’s still adjusting to the idea of a modern society where the enemy is not necessarily an external force (such as the Nazis from the first film or the alien invasion from 2012’s The Avengers), but something that can be found in the fabric of your own government. As he listens to S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division) director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) explain the necessity for a new military defense system that can prevent threats before they happen, Captain America responds, “This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”
Exploiting America’s anxieties post-September 11 is nothing new at the cinema but it’s interesting to see a superhero film in which the hero is battling the same “patriotism” his name implies. The innocence from the first film is gone, replaced with a Captain America for the era of WikiLeaks, the Patriot Act, and NSA coverups. But no worries. The subtext may be grim, but at heart Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still slam-bang entertainment, with electrifying action scenes, suspenseful moments that seem out of a ’70s conspiracy flick, and a great end-title sequence that may actually be better than the movie itself, a wondrous example of minimalist art direction perfectly fused with Henry Jackman’s propulsive score. And did I mention Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow?
As usual, things get a little bombastic for my taste in the final climax – there are only so many explosions and collapsing metal I can take. But those are minor gripes. This might be one of my favorite entries so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Rating: ***½ | Very Good
Carlos I. Cuevas