I’m not going to even sugarcoat it: aside from Avengers: Endgame, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) film, and one of my favorite comic book films of all time. I do apologize if it sounds like I’m already overselling this, so let’s back up. Also, I may sound a little biased due to the fact that Captain America is my favorite Marvel character and my theatrical experience was one of the best experiences I had. That said, this film (originally released in 2014) has always been on my mind whenever I think of great comic book films released during the 2010s, and I’m glad that I’m going to be reviewing this today. So, at this time let me describe the plot of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and from there I’ll discuss why I love this film.
In the second film in the Captain America trilogy we follow Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), who now works for S.H.I.E.L.D. (short for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage and Law-Enforcement Division) in Washington D.C. with fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and under the leadership of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). One day, Steve confronts Nick about information that he discovers while on a mission and feels is withheld from him. Willingly, Nick presents what S.H.I.E.L.D.’s next step is for national protection, Project Insight, which involves highly upgraded helicarriers as seen in The Avengers that can take out enemies before they pose a threat. Steve is hesitant about this project, feeling that this isn’t the action S.H.I.E.L.D. shouldn’t take as it goes against his views on freedom. Persuaded by Steve’s words, Nick talks to his superior Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) to delay the project as he also has doubts on it. Nick’s request is approved, but after he leaves S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters he gets ambushed by unknown mercenaries (that may be associated with S.H.I.E.L.D.) with one of them being a mysterious assassin known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). From there he seeks refuge at Steve’s home and informs Steve that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised and to trust no one. Unfortunately, after that he gets gunned down by the Winter Soldier and is rushed to a hospital where he is proclaimed “dead” during surgery. Before his untimely death, Nick gives Steve a flash drive containing information on Project Insight and from there he partners up with Natasha to try to find out what’s on the flash drive while on the run from renegade agents including the Winter Soldier himself.
Again not going to sugarcoat it, I love Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But what makes it stand out more than all the other films in the MCU aside from Avengers: Endgame? Two factors: the character of Captain America himself and the action displayed on screen. Without those two things this would’ve been a run of the mill Marvel film, but thanks to directors Joe and Anthony Russo, we got the best Captain America story told on the silver screen.
I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that one of my favorite qualities in a film is character development and Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivers. While we know who Steve Rogers is as we saw him in Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers, this film gives us the chance to explore a different side of him while he adjusts to life in the twenty-first Century. This provided great moments of character interaction between him and other people such as Natasha and newcomer Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Those moments helped make the film feel more grounded, and Marvel has done a good job of grounding its films. Another part of Steve we get to see is his doubtful views during certain situations. Doubt is not a foreign word to us Catholics and it’s something that’s normal to have. Without it, we wouldn’t get the opportunity to question our faith which, again, is normal to do. Steve feels very doubtful towards the people he’s working for, especially when the same people gun down Nick Fury. That doesn’t mean, however, that he doesn’t stop fighting for what he believes, which is something we need to continue doing on a daily basis.
Aside from exploring the character of Steve Rogers, another aspect that I love about Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the action itself. In Captain America: The First Avenger we see Steve fight alongside soldiers in World War II, and in this film the tone switches from pitched battle to the world of espionage where we get (in my opinion) much better action moments. I’ve used the word grounded earlier in this review when it came to characters, and I feel like that word is appropriate to use again when it comes to the action in this film. All of the fight choreography and scenes involving stealth were extremely grounded and realistic to where I forgot I was watching a comic book film time to time. I think what helps is that the Russo Brothers focused more on practical effects in the film rather than C.G.I., which was something I praise the directors for doing. The time where C.G.I. is heavily needed is towards the climax, which involves the helicarriers, and even then those look great special effects wise. There will be moments where I’ll just randomly watch certain fight scenes via YouTube and I get so lost in it that I’m always tempted to just start watching a movie. Yeah it’s that good.
I think it’s pretty clear that I highly recommend Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and would encourage you to watch it if you haven’t done so already. Even if you’re not a fan of comic book films it’s still a great story about espionage and sticking to what you believe in even when the odds are against you.