With thrilling action scenes, stunning special effects, and a classic good guys vs. bad guys story, Captain America: The Winter Soldier has all the ingredients of the wildly popular superhero genre. However, it’s far from formulaic: what puts this film above other superhero movies is the introduction of ethical dilemmas and political power struggle. Throw in a few plot twists, some trusty sidekicks and witty humor, and you have what just might be the best movie to come out of Marvel Studios yet (after The Avengers, of course).
Living in Washington, D.C. and still working with S.H.I.E.L.D., the law enforcement agency run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is still assimilating to life in the 21st century after having been frozen in a block of ice since the 1940s. Rogers begins to question the motives of S.H.I.E.L.D. when Fury introduces him to Project Insight, a deadly defense mechanism intended to preemptively eradicate possible threats. “This isn’t freedom,” says Rogers. “This is fear.” Fury scoffs at his idealism and insists that this is the only way. Also in favor of Insight is the subversive S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford).
When Rogers becomes suspicious of a possible conspiracy plot from within S.H.I.E.L.D., he enlists the help of fellow agent Natasha Romanoff, a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). She’s quick-witted, ruthless, and just plain badass, serving as a perfect complement to her more empathetic, morally upright companion. Also helpful is Captain America’s loyal friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who proves to have a few special abilities of his own. It’s a good thing the Captain has backup, as he soon finds himself a target of the Winter Soldier, a lethal assassin with mysterious motives.
The film touches on contemporary issues like government surveillance and paranoia over terrorism in a plot that is surprisingly intricate. Still, it is never less than hugely entertaining, with comic relief in all the right places. Chris Evans makes for a valiant, honest hero, which is refreshing in a time of such moral ambiguity. And the action scenes are visually stunning, but that’s come to be expected of movies of this genre and budget. However, the story of the film is what really makes this work.
The Winter Soldier is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s ninth release in six years. To produce films of such high quality in rapid succession is truly an impressive feat. This one has me so excited for the next movie, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, that I’m already anxiously counting down the days until its release.
(391 to go, in case you were wondering.)
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