March 29, 2014 by bck1402
Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
Stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo with Samuel L Jackson, Robert Redford and several “guest stars” that mentioning here would spoil some things.
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo
Once again, Marvel takes their lead character and boils it down to the core. Coming off the major, epic event that was The Avengers, it worked well for Iron Man 3, stumbled a little in Thor: The Dark World and here, it soars wonderfully. Each of the three have had to deal with personal issues post Chitauri invasion, and for Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, completely embodying the character), often the moral centre of The Avengers, he has to confront the moral ambiguity that the world is in. Cap is truly from a simpler time when trust among soldiers at war came a little easier than now. There is the bureaucracy to deal with; sub-missions within mission; the shades of grey the world exists in. Who can you trust?
There is a danger with having moral ambiguity as part of the plot. You just might end up rooting for the bad guys, because the argument is sound in that moment. (See The Invasion (2007) remake of Jack Finney’s novel, compared to the previous cinematic incarnations) Given how the world has changed since the turn of the millennium, the line between right and wrong has blurred beyond recognition. That is hardly Cap’s problem though because his sensibilities and ideologies are old school and clear cut. When confronted with the concept of taking out terrorists before they have the opportunity to strike, he retorts, “I thought the punishment came after the crime,” or “This isn’t freedom, it’’s fear.” Lines featured in the trailers, meant to reflect the state of some countries in the world.
Speaking of the trailers, I found it interesting that what was shown – naturally out of context – barely reflected the core plot of the movie and yet it wasn’t too far from the overall concept. The ideas here are complex, and the plots (yes, plural) are layered beautifully, creating a structure to the story that unfolds as the movie progresses. It also has Cap looking carefully into just who the enemy is before making his move.
For most of the movie, the characters are in pairs, or more likely, foils for each other. There’s Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) and his mentor, Alexander Pierce (an excellent Robert Redford) practically reflecting the two methods at play. A similar situation with Cap and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) in how they carry out their missions. Or Cap and the titular Winter Soldier, who is a reflection of Cap. In the comics, The Winter Soldier was Russia’s answer to the Super Soldier program. Here, it’s naturally different and yet, it works within the context of the story. Then there are Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Brock Rumlow (Frank Grillo), both serve as Cap’s partner at different points of the story, different missions, and again reflecting the core difference of being a soldier in this grey world. Or it simply could be I’m reading too much into it all, but there might be the consideration that it crossed the minds of the writers and directors.
Anthony and Joe Russo handle the direction very well, from the quiet intimate moments to the fight set-pieces to the grand, epic scale battles that take place on various locations, ground and air. The numerous fight choreographies are well staged, bringing something very different to each of the hand-to-hand battles. I particularly love the way The Winter Soldier handles his knives in battle. With Sam Wison a.k.a Falcon in the mix, we also get some very impressive aerial stunt work on show. They also manage to draw some very good performances from their stars, prominently from their leading man, Chris Evans, who holds his own against the legends that are Sam Jackson and Robert Redford. Evans also has easy rapport with Johansson and Mackie in their scenes together.
In all, a solid story with thought provoking plot, charismatic performances, brilliant action set-pieces backed by a rousing score and a scale to rival even that of any major summer blockbuster. There is a sting after the main titles that sets up the next Avengers movie, and a small throwaway clip post credits that may be significant for the next instalment of Captain America. The rest of the Summer movies have quite a high bar to get over here.