Captain America: The Winter Soldier

*****

It sucked!It'll be on cable.I liked it.It was good!It was awesome!! (Give us your rating!!)
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“The price of freedom is high . . . and it’s a price I’m willing to pay!” – Captain America

Winter Soldier

Swift shot: Cleveland born veritas pioneers, the Russo brothers, direct a stunningly grounded super hero film that is really an homage to the 70’s thriller. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has been referred to as Avengers 1.5, and it’s a fair assessment. Teaming up with Falcon and Black Widow, Captain America has to cope with an evolving threat from within SHIELD Headquarters, the Triskelion. For a man who is rooted in honor, Cap has a hard time dealing with the betrayal, while his partner Black Widow, has no grasp on her truth anymore. An enemy from Cap’s past appears and presents a chilling reminder that suppressing freedom because of fear is really just a new form of enslavement. Take away free will, and what do you have?  A machine.

Chris Evans returns as Captain America, two years after “New York,” Cap has become a full-fledged agent of SHIELD.  It’s appropriate, because he is known for carrying an iconic shield. I was happy to see he employed it throughout the movie, as an offensive weapon, as a defensive barrier, and he isn’t afraid to let that baby fly when it is needed. In one scene, he takes down a Quinjet in a fashion right out of the “Ultimate Alliance 2″ video game, bouncing the thing off the tail-fins to cause it to crash.

Scarlett Johansson is more than just a sexy spider woman this time.  She has a bit more depth.  It is explained that she and Cap have been teaming up for awhile now on SHIELD strike missions, and their banter before, and during, missions gives us a little insight into the dynamic between them. She is constantly trying to get him laid, and he is evading all attempts . . . being unable to connect with modern women.  There is a bit of an age gap, with him being 95 and all!

Cap crosses running paths with Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a former Air Force para-rescuer who now runs a PTSD support group for returning combat veterans. I was glad they showed this, and I was glad they didn’t hem and haw on it forever trying to make Cap seem like someone who couldn’t deal with his past. It is evident Cap is having a hard time fitting in, but in true Steve Rogers fashion, he has a plan to deal with those gaps. In one scene he produces a little notebook that lists all the things people keep bringing up that he has yet to see or experience . . . Star Wars being one!

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) heads SHIELD and reports directly to the World Security Council, which is helmed by Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Interesting fact, Redford played the protagonist in Three Days of the Condor (which Winter Soldier is loosely based upon). Getting Redford involved in this film was what really makes it less a super hero flick and more a genuine thriller. What was more interesting, to me, was the fact that he agreed to be in a movie that promotes freedom over security; I thought he was a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, and their mantra stems from big government . . . not less intrusive measures. Still, for whatever reason he joined this non-indie film, it made all the difference! Every scene he is in, the actors pick up their game, you can feel the atmosphere in the theater change when he’s on screen. It’s palpable; he is an incredible actor.

HYDRA agents within SHIELD have infiltrated the organization, for decades, and have hatched a master plan to identify and eliminate all people throughout the world that fit into an “undesirable” algorithm. Nick Fury gets close to exposing the truth, but perhaps too close, as it becomes apparent that Captain America and Black Widow are on their own. They manage to enlist (I use that word for specific allusion) Falcon in putting a stop to the extermination plan. If they only had to fight SHIELD, that would be one thing, but HYDRA has their own “asset” – The Winter Soldier. He is like a phantom, an urban legend that only few operators have actually lived to see. While Cap was put on ice for decades, this killing machine was awake, doing HYDRA’s bidding. When Captain America faces him, everything changes.

This film had all the components I love in a great movie. The fight sequences were intense, close-quarters, rough, painful, and difficult to watch . . . for all the right reasons. The opening action sequence on the Lemurian Star is going to be imitated by little kids for months as they imagine running from stern to bow dispatching bad guys without hesitation, like Cap does.

The Markus/McFeely screenplay was decent, and the aspect of the “who can you trust” thriller was handled well and not overbearing. The characters were developed enough for me to care about them, and since this wasn’t an origin film, we really didn’t need tons of exposition.

The special effects, as you would expect, were state-of-the-art, and the gun play . . . oh man, the gun play was OFS! In one shoot-out with a talking car (with a voice that I dare say you might recognize) the whole sequence is reminiscent of the epic Heat bank robbery shootout. There are several “yummy” moments as Amadarwin and I refer to them, with Agent 13 (Emily VanCamp) and Black Widow giving us, let’s say, titillating camera angles. Hey, I am a red-blooded American male, so sue me – we can’t all be saints like Cap!

As the film concluded, I was running through an imaginary checklist in my head of all the things I love in a movie, and I couldn’t think of one that missed the mark. To quote Scarlett Johansson, “Movies are about being able to escape your life or connect pieces of your life and enjoy the experience. I love the movie-going experience from the popcorn to the previews to the film itself. I like having it stay with me afterwards and thinking about it days later.” That is exactly what Captain America: The Winter Soldier did for me.  It provided an escape; I was able to connect with it, and I can’t stop pestering my friends about how they must see it! I will even make this bold statement, if you don’t like this film, we can’t be friends.

~@rickswift

 

 

 


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