Captain America: The Winter Soldier is perhaps the perfect example of why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is and will continue to be a successful franchise. It is distinct from other branches of the MCU in that it is a political thriller. It does not simply try to imitate, borrow from, or nod to political thrillers. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is first and foremost a political thriller, a political thriller that just happens to take place in the Marvel Universe/star Captain America.
There’s not a lot I can say without spoilers, but Winter Soldier, being the genre it is, is filled with twists and turns, secrets, vast wide ranging conspiracies, and moments where you generally wonder who to trust. Cap/Steve Roger’s idealism is confronted with harsh modern political realities and current issues of surveillance, privacy, and preemptive strikes. Cap is not naive, acknowledging times in the past where he’s compromised/had his hands dirty, but still sticks to his ideals.
Robert Redford, veteran of the aforementioned films that inspired this piece appears as a SHIELD higher up, and we get some background on this history of SHIELD and Nick Fury.
Black Widow returns, and her relationship with Cap doesn’t go the route you might expect, but they play off each other fantastically, and it was funny to see her constantly suggesting different girls Cap could date.
The opening scene has Steve meeting Sam Wilson/the Falcon by chance, which felt very organic as opposed to him being assigned to Cap or something like that. There’s a neat scene where Sam suggests some music for Steve to listen to. Rogers pulls out a notebook and adds the suggestion to a list. I couldn’t catch anything on the list but it had a bunch of stuff like the band Nirvana, and much to my amusement, Rocky, followed by Rocky II with a question mark. Star Wars was also on the list, which you could argue eliminates the possibility of a Star Wars/MCU crossover, as Star Wars is now established as fiction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But either way if Disney wants to cross those properties over someday they will.
Not forgetting that this is a sequel, characters and locations from the first movie appear, some of which I never expected, one of which was truly amazing. There’s a Smithsonian exhibit on Captain America in which we see pictures of characters from the last movie, and the Howling Commandos are named specifically. (In the first movie they never said the words Howling Commandos but they were in there.) The exhibit later has a role in the plot, and also leads to a good Stan Lee Cameo.
A vast far reaching and decades long conspiracy is revealed (which also related to a certain Marvel characters parents) which has some shock value. It would have been more shocking had this been revealed a few films deeper into the MCU. However that’s probably not a fair complaint, as this is just what we have to work with and it’s effective anyway.
SHIELD main headquarters, the Triskelion, is revealed to be this huge building in Washington DC, which I guess means that the existence of SHIELD is public knowledge in the MCU. I’d often wondered about that previously. Logistically I wonder where it fits as the CIA is also known to exist in this world. However members of the SHIELD security council are revealed to be from various countries, so I presume it’s an international intelligence agency. Still I’d like a little clarity on how SHIELD differs from the CIA, MI-6, etc.
The fight scenes are fantastic, the opening action scene resembling the Captain America video game. Rogers has perfect command of his shield, always knowing where to throw it/when to catch it etc. UFC fighter George Saint Pierre plays a villain who fights Cap in this sequence. It was great watching one of the greatest fighters in real life face off against one of the greatest fighters in fiction. If anything disappointed me about this film it’s that GSP’s part was only minor. However there really wasn’t much room for him anyway, so here’s to sequels.
CGI is only used when needed. The shot of the boat in the beginning and some of the building shots were obviously CGI that I think won’t age well over time, but the rest of it looked good. There’s a few things you can nitpick toward the end. At one point the villain does something to gain the upper hand but you wonder why that action wasn’t taken sooner, but events turn again so the point becomes moot. Also, obviously I know what kind of movies these are, but honestly it is a little unbelievable that Cap doesn’t die in the end.
Like Thor: The Dark World, there is a mid credit scene hinting at what’s ahead that reveals new characters, and an end credit scene that relates to this specific film. It seems Phase Two of the MCU has a new formula for post credit scene.
In closing, Captain America: The Winter Soldier: is in fact the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date.