Review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier Exclusive Screening
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is everything the original Captain America is not; so smart and so savvy that Time Magazine called it a sharp, political fable. I myself am not sure how to describe this one, except to say that I was expecting only burgers, but was delivered a gourmet meal. And dessert.
First of all, this movie tops the original in almost every way, in action set pieces, in drama, intrigue, and character development. Yes, there is even that in this movie, save for some throwaway characters we barely get to know. The action in the original was formulaic and somewhat predictable: it was a war. There’s going to be shooting, tanks, and two sides fighting each other. In The Winter Soldier, I wasn’t sure what the loyalties were. And that’s a good thing. The movie has modern environments, costumes, and espionage missions, where as the original had battlefield conflict, World War II uniforms, and marching.
The second difference this movie has over the original is in drama and intrigue. This is not Hitchcock, but it is trying hard to give us something entertaining that is not the standard superhero fare, such as: villain pops up, has plot, heroes go fight him. Roll credits. No, that’s not what we get here. We get something deeper, that has to be unfolded by our heroes like a good mystery, but with an added element of action thrown in there like Jack Bower racing to stop a plot. I actually couldn’t predict any of the surprises in the movie, except perhaps the outcome of the Winter Solider versus Cap fight, which comes out the way I think we wanted it to.
I did think Cap was in danger at some point and I certainly thought Black Widow was even more of a prime target. They may have gone over the top a little with the ability to shrug off injuries, but I was willing to forgive that in a superhero movie. The intrigue is fully supported by Robert Redford, and I don’t think the movie would have flown without such a good performance from him. He is not The Red Skull, he is a politician, so he is not your typical bad guy. He plays it straight, like he believes what he is doing is right, in the people’s best interest, and he doesn’t monologue or wear a mask. That’s a good decision for your modern action thriller.
There is character development in this movie, namely in our main characters. Captain America does this through interaction with The Falcon, Black Widow, and his friends. Black Widow is also developed to some extent and Nick Fury is given a whole lot more screen time. I was glad to see him there. He pulls the role off just right, almost too confidently, in fact. It was hilariously awesome. The only characters not developed were the ones lacking the screen time to do it, even The Winter Soldier himself, but we do get some flashbacks that tell us more about his character. Zola returns in order to be fodder and I think Agent 13 was in there somewhere.
The elements I thought were missing from the original are all in this movie in spades. The man-out-of-time has some struggles and he deals with emotions in a discussion with an old friend from the 40s who is still alive today. There is more action and very few ham-fisted jokes, only witty repartee and sarcastic quips. I would have to give the standout performance to Anthony Mackie, The Falcon. He is not given very much to work with at first glance, but he has some good lines of dialogue and makes a connection with other characters in a way I thought looked real and genuine. You could tell he was really making an effort.
The best part of this movie is the mystery surrounding just what is going on and how our heroes are going to stop it. And this mystery and the solution are inevitably somewhat simple, but all of it works so well, on many levels. Best of all, the evil plot you might expect evolves into an edgy conspiracy in this movie. All the time, Captain America remains true to who he is, even in the face of corruption and danger. He is forced to work outside the law like a badass and that makes him all the more heroic. It is brilliant
You’d think it might be hard making a patriotic guy “likeable”, but not for Marvel Studios. They take their hero and give him conflict, change the rules of the game, and then present him a mystery, a problem he has to solve. And he solves it with his pals using grim determination, as good as the A-Team, but Cap leaves the gadgets to Black Widow. All in all, I was highly entertained by Captain America: The Winter Soldier and was happy to see the modern superhero movie offering something more than the standard fare.