Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain American Winter Soldier

  • One of the best movies in the Marvel universe, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is suspenseful, well-made and captivating.
  • Even though neither of the titular characters are the film’s most interesting. Who is? Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Why? Partially because Natasha is the most complex and layered character in the film, and partially because Johansson is captivating, registering the The Winter Soldier’s most intense emotional moments, especially when in a hospital, where she reveals Natasha’s emotional core with a few subtle facial expressions. Indeed, Johansson’s Black Widow threatens to steal this Captain America movie from Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and his new nemesis (Sebastian Stan).  Actually, at times she succeeds, and, for a while, owns the film.
  • Remarkably, the project doesn’t suffer for it, courtesy, primarily, of an engaging plot-line that advances Marvel’s superhero universe more than any of the studio’s most recent entries, including The Avengers (2012). Here S.H.I.E.L.D. is on display, in ways it hasn’t been previously, at least not on the big screen, and Marvel’s world benefits for it.
  • Moreover, The Winter Soldier cleverly plays with genre just enough that it feels less formulaic than most superhero movies.  It is a tense conspiracy thriller, one riddled with mystery and intrigue, a fact that makes it unique, at least amongst the films to which it will be most compared.
  • It does make a few missteps, however. Scenes involving Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) are too expository, so much so that they slow down the story. Plus, the scenes’ reliance on science fiction clouds The Winter Soldier with one too many genres.
  • Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie), both the man and the technology he uses, is underdeveloped.
  • So is Maria Hill (Cobie Summers), who appears and disappears so haphazardly that she oft seems like an all-powerful bogeyman.
  • While disappointing, the development of Zola, Hill and Wilson are still relatively minor flaws, if only because the most central characters, including Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Steve, Director Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and, of course, Natasha, are sufficiently-developed and engaging.
  • And because much of the action is gripping. Fights between The Winter Soldier and Cap are some of the best such sequences Marvel has yet created, and Natasha’s whirling martial arts are almost poetic.
  • Universally strong performances, especially from Johannson, Redford and Evans help as well.
  • In the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is very good and warrants a strong recommendation.
  • Final Grade: B+

48 thoughts on “Captain America: The Winter Soldier

  1. I agree about the action. It was spectacular and well choreographed. My only problem with it is it used the shaky-cam effect a lot and that is one of my movie pet peeves. Great review, James!

    • I think, like everything, it depends on the movie. When shaky cam is used appropriately to represent the rawness of a scene, and doesn’t interfere with our understanding what’s happening, I think it can be effective. This one of the times I think it was used wisely.

  2. Good review for an enjoyable movie. after disappointing Thor & Iron Man sequels, CA:WS is bigger & better than First Avenger, but then it had to be. Loved his list of Things To Do – having watched the movie this week in Bangkok found his entry: “Thai Food” too cool! I agree w your Grade, Cheers!

    • The “Thai Food” entry was my favorite, too. 😉

      I would say The Avengers is still better than this, but this might be my second favorite Marvel movie.

  3. Your review is insightful and well written as usual, but I am tired of the Marvel genre. Maybe one day when I’m bored and it shows up on T.V.
    I will get around to seeing it.

    • Honestly, I’m beginning to tire of it, too. But that’s why I like this. It isn’t the same old superhero movie; there’s enough here to keep it fresh.

      • I recently saw Origins for the first time, in preparation for Days of Future Past. McAvoy was really good. Fassbender was even better. I wouldn’t call Origins great, but it was good, and one of the better X-Men movies out there.

  4. Good review. Not the best Marvel movie since the Avengers, like some have been advertising it as, but definitely a fun movie that makes good use of just about everybody who is involved with this.

  5. Glad you enjoyed this one, my friend! Definitely one of my favorite Marvel films to date. I agree on the bit with Zola–there was something lacking there. Same with Hill. I’m hoping she has a more consistent role in Age of Ultron and/or Cap 3 because I do like Cobie Smulders. Excellent review! 🙂

    • Thanks. And I like Smulders, too. But so far I’m not a big fan of her character in these movies. They’ve never given her enough with which to work. Until Winter Soldier, I would have said I nothinged Hill. Now I’m leaning more to dislike.

      Maybe they’ll finally start paying attention to her eventually. (Seems an Iron Man movie could be possible, given the way this one ended.)

      • Hmm. I’ve been wondering about Iron Man. Did Downey Jr. sign up for another one? I know there was talk of a reboot for awhile…which I hope doesn’t happen any time soon. Lol. I like RDJ far too much in that role to see someone else step in.

      • I didn’t know there was any question as to Downey’s involvement much less discussion about rebooting the franchise. Seems like that would be hard to do before The Avengers movies reach some resolution. Stark is too important to those movies for that character to be redone. I would think.

        But. The real point is I don’t know the answer to your question. 🙂

      • Well, I know there’d been a little talk since Downey is now pushing 50…but then look at Samuel L. Jackson! Lol. I just hope if they do pulling RDJ in for another Iron Man film, it’s better than the last one. I mean, it was okay, but…meh.

  6. I am in love with Black Widow. How can any man not be? I am watching this tomorrow at the most expensive VIP theater in Toronto and cannot wait! So pumped! As for your review, it kind of disappoints me to read that Falcon is underdeveloped. I expected it but eh….I was open to surprises.

  7. Actually this felt like a mini-Avengers movie with all the supporting players. While it didn’t reach the heights of the Battle of New York in that picture, it was still up there with the very best Marvel films. Great fun!

    • Agreed on all points. I think it makes sense that this become a mini-Avengers. 1. Cap leads that team. And 2. Cap isn’t particularly complex, conceptually speaking, so I think he’d have a hard time carrying a movie all alone.

  8. Fantastic review Josh! I was a massive fan of this movie. I must say that it just worked and was incredibly well put together. I loved the fight scenes, I loved the Captain, I LOVED the Winter Soldier, the performances were great all round, the score worked and it came together well. I cannot say that I was too affected by what went down with Hill, I am not a massive Smulders fan, to be honest. I thought that they kept this movie pretty fresh and engaging, definitely one of the best outings from Marvel. Also the best Phase 2 Marvel film we have so far, let’s be serious, the last two were severely disappointing!

    • The last two were simply not good. Agreed.

      Also agreed on every other point. (Though I have nothing against Smulders, per se. I don’t like the character all that much, but the actor is fine.)

      • Hoping to see some more solid offerings in the next few Marvel movies, this one definitely raised the bar again.

        What I REALLY liked about it is that it was not inundated by ridiculous amounts of cheese. There was humour, but it did not crush the film.

  9. Great to see this getting such positive reviews after poor showings with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2. Will be reviewing it Friday.

    • Amen on the first two follow ups to The Avengers. I didn’t think them terrible, but I didn’t think them good either. This one – this one is good.

  10. I really agree sir. Great as always. I thought the backstory of the Falcon was underdeveloped somewhat, but I loved his tech. If we get more developmentt of him in Avengers 2, I think he could be a surprise. And I love Anthony Mackie. Probably connected with Steve more than any other Avenger in any movie period here.

    Also side with you on this being the best Marvel movie and it not being close since The Avengers. TWS>>The Dark World>>>>Iron Man 3.

    • No question this is far superior than the other Phase 2 flicks.

      On principle, I like The Falcon’s tech, too. I just think a bit backstory on how it came to exist would have been helpful. (And agreed that Mackie is good in the role.)

      • No I haven’t it doesn’t appeal to me, but now that I hear everyone raving about it, I kinda wanna see it now. But I must see Budapest Hotel first!! Before I see this.

      • Yes. Budapest is more important. 🙂

        And if you ever see any of the Marvel movies, this one is going to prove one of the most important. Because the Marvel world dramatically changes during it.

        For whatever that’s worth.

  11. This may be the closest thing I’ll see to a Black Widow movie and Im happy with that. I agree that this story is better then a lot of other superhero movies. At times it felt like a political thriller, and I loved that the action was more grounded and did not have people running and jumping everywhere. They need more Melissa Hill in this one. That character is rarely used. Great review

  12. Nice review. I’ve not really been sold on the Marvel stuff all that much, but this looks alright. I agree that Black Widow deserves her own flick, but I don’t see it happening. Female-led superhero films just don’t seem to happen, Catwoman and Elektra notwithstanding of course.

    Seriously. Where the hell is a Wonder Woman movie already?

    • Amen on all points. Until the end of this movie, it is about as close to a female led flick Marvel has gotten, but then, of course, she basically disappears for the finale.

      Someone told me they’ve green lit a solo Johannson project, though. Hopefully that’s true.

  13. Like you I enjoyed the movie but I also thought it wasn’t flawless, as many reviewers seem to claim. I was particularly disappointed in Johansson – she was good but her performance was so ridiculously overhyped by the critics.

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