MRR Review: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In Honor of Superhero Movie Month - Win Captain America's Shield Plus The Winter Soldier on Blu-ray Before It's Released! Enter Here!!

 Rating: PG-13
Length: 128 minutes
Release Date: April 4, 2014
Directed by: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Genre: Action-Adventure / Sci-Fi / Fantasy

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is an exciting superhero movie that manages to be poignant and deal with important and timely themes all at the same time. It is a movie that is very much of today even as it reminds the audience adroitly of the things American society may be in danger of losing. An incredibly smart movie that combines relevance with over-the-top action and excitement, this new Avengers installment is not only a must-see movie. It is a must-see-on-opening-night kind of movie.

Steve Rogers returns in fine form as Captain America (Chris Evans) in this much-anticipated sequel. The film starts with what seems like a routine hostage rescue, until Captain America realizes that his boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has not been telling him the whole truth. The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) appears to know quite a bit more about this mission than Rogers, and as he puts the pieces together, he is far from pleased.

Fury, it turns out, has been drawn into a scheme in which the government is in effect spying on its own citizens. Fury's new boss Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is the one behind it all, pushing what begins as domestic surveillance far over the civilized edge thanks to the use of a stunning new fleet of "helicarriers," which are basically aircraft carriers that fly in the sky rather than float in the water. Pierce's plan with all this ultra-high-tech gear is to remove terrorists from the scene before they even commit an act of terror.

Rogers is justly appalled. He and Fury argue about what's right here, with Rogers insisting that the government has now turned the corner and is promoting fear instead of freedom. All Fury can do is warn Rogers not to trust anyone... and that warning may apply to Fury himself.

Captain America is now in the unexpected and invigorating position of having to fight the country he's named after. He teams up with the Black Widow to expose what's really going on. Together, with the help of Steve's new friend Afghanistan war veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), they team up to bring down their own service.

As the movie swings into its stunning action sequences, Captain America is pitted against the titular Winter Soldier, a supersoldier assassin from HYDRA. The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) does not know his own identity and seems to have been medically modified in much the same way as Steve Rogers was in the original Captain America movie, making him the perfect foe for Captain America both physically and psychologically. Amid exciting plot twists and an amazing battle through the streets of Washington, D.C., Rogers has to face his own past, which of course forces the audience to face its own past as well.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is more than just the popcorn movie everyone expects from an Avengers movie. The film is remarkable in its willingness to bravely confront issues that are ripped right from today's headlines and about which many good people disagree strongly. The movie raises important questions as to whether government surveillance is justifiable and necessary in the face of increasing threats, or whether the right of private citizens to retain their privacy should take primacy. The big questions reverberate right through the heart of the film. As the audience is enjoying big, colorful superhero-type action, the reasons for that action ground the movie and lend it a sober and thoughtful tone.

The screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely is tight and beautifully structured. Each scene builds perfectly on the next with no loose ends. Everything that is promised early on gets a strong payoff, the pacing is meticulous, and the ending is satisfying and powerful. The Russo brothers direct the action sequences with style and energy, which is surprising in some ways, given that their background is in television sitcoms. The chase sequences and action set pieces are enormous, fun and easy to follow.

Chris Evans once again inhabits his role as Captain America/Steve Rogers with an unironic earnestness that manages to avoid feeling hokey in any way. His continuing attempts to fit in with the modern world have a sweetness to them, as he when he writes himself little notes about things like the importance of keeping "Star Wars" and "Star Trek" separate. His visit to a display about himself at the Smithsonian is poignant and provides a lovely moment of reflection in the midst of so much action and intrigue.

Other performances are also outstanding. Redford is perfectly cast as the slick and nefarious turncoat in the $1000 suit, and Johansson continues to work well as The Black Widow and has strong chemistry with Evans. The fact that she and Jackson as Nick Fury both have things to hide stands nicely in contrast to the open-hearted honesty of Steve Rogers. Mackie is a real standout as the new addition to the world of the Avengers, and his friendship with Rogers is refreshing and believable in every way.

Audiences who just want to see a hunky guy throw a shield in the face of bad guys are likely to come away from "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" perfectly satisfied. This movie delivers far, far more than just amazing action, however, and it allows audiences to walk away with a lot of big issues to ponder. Satisfying on an emotional, visceral and intellectual level, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" sets the bar very high for every other superhero movie.