There are a few moments in the excellent Thor: The Dark World and Iron Man Three where you realize just how much of an effect these events will have on these characters and their arcs. Those moments exist in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as well, but there are just as many where you realize how much they’ll affect the entirety of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Winter Soldier finally shows us what we never really got to see in Chris Evans’ previous appearances – Captain America learning to adjust to life in the modern world, and he’s largely doing a good job of it, filling his days checking off an ever-growing list of things to catch up on and his nights running missions for SHIELD. But he’s starting to feel some strain; he feels Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is keeping too much from him, like how Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow has her own separate mission during the “save the hostages” boat attack that opens the film.
This ill at ease comes to a head when Cap is questioned and then hunted by SHIELD after Fury is attacked (in a fairly epic car chase) by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). The only person Captain America and Black Widow can turn to for help is new friend, Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson (who “never said ‘pilot'”) aka Falcon.
Throughout the production and the promotion for the film, everyone involved has compared The Winter Soldier to 70s political thrillers and spy films, and that comparison is entirely earned. In much the same way that The Dark Knight was a 70s cop drama that happened to feature a guy in a bat costume, this is a political thriller that just happens to include someone dressed like a flag and a guy with a jet pack. It’s a spy film that’s equal parts Le Carré and Fleming. And it works. So well.
I feel no apprehension in saying that this is one of the best comic book adaptations ever, and easily the best of the Marvel films. That’s not just because of some really great cameos and nods or because it’s a Winter Soldier movie (despite what certain other TNS staffers might say) – it’s because it’s a damn good movie.
The script, by the team of Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the Narnia films, Thor: The Dark World) is remarkably tight for a film with such a Byzantine plot, but it would have to be in order for it not to collapse in on itself. The pair has quite a bit of experience with adapting large, complicated works though, so pulling this off was no surprise. Less of a sure thing was the directing team of Joe and Anthony Russo, best known for a bunch of episodes of Arrested Development and Community. Their closest brush with action previously was Community’s paintball episode. And yet somehow they nailed it. Winter Soldier looks great and was shot with a keen and confident eye for action (a fact made more impressive by the director of photography’s very slight CV).
Part of what make Winter Soldier so fun in a comic book nerd sort of way is how it opens up the world in all sorts of crazy new directions. Repercussions from this film will be felt throughout the MCU for years, most directly in the Agents of SHIELD TV series, I’m very curious to see how they handle the fallout from this.
As if you even needed me to tell you, go see Captain America: The Winter Solder. And see it as soon as you can before people start spoiling stuff.
I give it 10 METAL ARMS out of 10.