The second Captain America solo film is full of new and returning characters (though not as many as the third film!) and has an extremely significant plot twist half way through. Throw in plenty of well shot action and fight scenes and you have a genuine hit on your hands. Between this and Civil War it’s no wonder the Russo brothers were chosen to helm the final two Avengers films… Let’s take a look!
After the cataclysmic events in New York with his fellow Avengers, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, lives in the nation’s capital as he tries to adjust to modern times. An attack on a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague throws Rogers into a web of intrigue that places the whole world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow and a new ally, the Falcon, Rogers struggles to expose an ever-widening conspiracy, but he and his team soon come up against an unexpected enemy…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s funny seeing these two next to each other. It’s “pretty comic accurate costume” and “well… he has wings” respectively. Don’t get me wrong though, I know the red and while spandex with mask wouldn’t have worked!
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Chris Evans still nails Cap in and out of the uniform, and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow are both great “action hero” style agents. Throw in Anthony Mackie as the charismatic Falcon (alias Sam Wilson) and Sebastian Stan nailing the emotionless assassin role (which isn’t a knock on his lack of charisma… I think?) and you have a strong cast.
The story is one of political intrigue and spies, but with plenty of action to keep up with the expectation of a comic book movie. After a joint mission with Black Widow to retake a SHIELD ship that was boarded by pirates (led by MMA legend Georges St-Pierre’s Batroc, which was the first time I remember smiling at such a silly and obscure comic character getting MCU’d, though the live action version doesn’t wear a mask or leap really high…) and during the mission Cap sees Widow downloading some secret SHIELD files instead of helping with the rescue, which leads to him questioning his loyalty to Nick Fury and his group, especially when Nick shows him their new plan of having large helicarriers floating over Earth able to find and take out threats as or even before they happen. He also meets and befriends Sam Wilson during this time, a scene where he runs past Wilson over and over while he’s out for a run, constantly saying “on your left” as he goes by has certainly taken on a whole new meaning retrospectively… There is also a sweet and somewhat unsettling scene with Cap and a now 90+ year old Peggy Carter, who clearly has some sort of dementia.
Although I’d already read the comic Extremis before watching Iron Man 3, this still felt like the first time I was watching a live action adaptation of a comic I’d read, given it’s closer to the source (just about!)
Nick Fury finds something out that he shouldn’t have and is attacked by SHIELD on his drive home, managing to overcome them before being injured by the mysterious metal-armed assassin known only as the Winter Soldier. An injured Nick tells Cap not to trust anyone before seemingly being killed, leading to a great rooftop chase between our lead and the assassin. After everything Cap talks to SHIELD higher up Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) but feels no better about the situation, and even less so when he’s jumped by a large group of people in a small lift (a now classic moment!) Cap and Widow go on the run from SHIELD and find a top secret base underneath an old SHIELD outpost and find out from an A.I. version of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) that Hydra was never defeated, it merely installed several of its members into the newly forming SHIELD and have spent the past many decades waiting for the right time to reveal themselves, and (coincidentally) that time is now. It was a great reveal and I love that they managed to come close to paying homage to the Zola from the comics, who is a face on a screen but the screen is in a weird headless robot body, which is going a bit too far for the MCU, at least at this point anyway…
In a second showdown with the Winter Soldier Cap finds out that its actually his old WWII friend Bucky Barnes who had been experimented on, mind-controlled and cryogenically frozen on and off since his fall from a bridge (that old chestnut!). The proverbial hits the fan and Hydra go into action, unveiling their plan of using the armed helicarriers to take down millions of “potential threats” to Hydra at once. Some members of SHIELD resist, including Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Peggy Carter’s granddaughter Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and all hell breaks loose, with the helicarriers taking to the skies and Cap and Sam, who now has his prototype winged jetpack and going by the codename Falcon, each take a carrier to reprogram the ship’s targeting A.I. While two go down Cap takes the third as Sam confronts SHIELD agent Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo) who had been a constant thorn in Cap’s side the whole film, meanwhile Black Widow and an alive and on-his-feet Nick Fury take down the Hydra/SHIELD top brass. Cap resets the final helicarrier, making them fire on each other rather than innocent people, and fights to a draw with Bucky, eventually refusing to fight his friend. Bucky saves Cap from drowning and then runs off…
We then get a few hints of future plots, as Cap and Sam agree to search for Bucky and Nick Fury begins to search for other Hydra cells still active. Then a mid-credits scenes gives us our first look at Wanda and Pietro Maximov (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson) ahead of Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“I can’t believe he’s dead…” “Neither can I! Let’s stab him multiple times to make sure” “Mother F-“
Honestly it’s one of those films that so long as you like a more action-heavy thriller with a few super-powered fights thrown in then there’s nothing to complain about. By doing the Winter Soldier story and adding the return of Hydra it doesn’t even fall into the weak villain trap, it all neatly ties into the First Avenger film.
I guess I could mention the aging effects on Peggy not being up to snuff, but that might be unfairly comparing it to some of the amazing digital de-aging effects seen in more recent MCU films…
“Before we begin… does anyone wanna get off?” I could watch this scene 100 times and not tire of it…
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a damn-near perfect film for its genre, with exciting and well directed action spectacle and hand-to-hand fight scenes and some good plot twists and plenty of fun continuity if you’re invested in the MCU. An easy 5.