Captain America: The Winter Soldier is now available as a digital download and may be my favorite of the Marvel films thus far—even though Guardians of the Galaxy is also high on the list. Honestly, it depends on the day, but now, today, I’d say it’s Cap by a nose. Maybe just a freckle.
Somehow, directors Anthony and Joe Russo and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have managed to meld the modern superhero film with the 1970s political thriller and create a thrill ride that is rewarding as a summer blockbuster, a conspiracy flick, and a character piece—not unlike a really gripping comic book saga. Truly, Cap is portrayed as a man out of time—a man who keeps a notebook of historical and cultural touchstones he missed during his time on ice, a man who mourns his friends and comrades from sixty years ago, a man whose moral code doesn’t gel with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s modern methods of protecting the country he loves; and he’s played with earnestness and charm by Chris Evans, whose performance as the Star-Spangled Avenger echoed the late Christopher Reeve’s take on another comic book icon, Superman.
As S.H.I.E.L.D. falls apart, Cap uncovers a conspiracy and takes on the entire organization, but he’s not alone in his endeavors: Scarlett Johansson’s deadly super-spy, the Black Widow; Anthony Mackie’s high-flying commando, the Falcon; Samuel L. Jackson’s tough-as-nails S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Nick Fury; and Cobie Smulders’ loyal S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Maria Hill, make up the team that helps Cap get to the bottom of the decades-old corruption that has rocked the espionage organization to its very foundations. However, the fallout from this film will affect the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series, which was in desperate need of a shot in the arm since it stagnated after its stellar pilot episode.
The big reveal at just about the halfway point in the film is still stunning upon a second viewing—likely because of both its immensity and how it plays into our most paranoid fears.
Then, there’s the Winter Soldier himself—the super-agent who serves as the muscle behind S.H.I.E.L.D.’s destruction. He has a connection to Cap and, therefore, is something of a tragic figure. (We get that just past the halfway point.) Still, he’s only part of the story and will surely figure into future installments of Captain America’s story.
The film’s big finish is, well, big—pretty much what one would expect from a big-time summer movie, but, despite all the CGI and traditional special effects, this blockbuster has a heart. It excels when it plays on the sincerity of the Evans’ performance. We care about Cap, and he has a problem. Thus, we have a problem.
If I have a quibble with the home video release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’s that there’s no Marvel One-Shot among the extras. C’mon, Marvel, you’ve set a level of expectation. Why no One-Shot? Would another Agent Carter adventure have been so difficult?
I’m calling it 10/10. This is a must-see. Iron Man 3 was kind of hit-and-miss, and Thor: The Dark World was good, but somewhat laborious. This is a return to top form for Marvel Films, and, hey, there are some name-drops that are the stuff of geeky fever-dreams.