Out of all the Avengers Captain America is the purest. He’s the ideal superhero, setting the standards for what it means to be one of the “good guys.” Captain America: The Winter Soldier puts Steve Rodgers to the ultimate test, however, as he finds himself questioning the chain of command and what freedom truly means.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been pretty straightforward with its films, but The Winter Soldier aims to alter that universe in a big way with its political themes wrapped around the standard superhero fanfare Marvel Studios is known for. That means plenty of action, suspense, and enough comic book references to make every Marvel fan squeal with excitement.
Set two years after the events of The Avengers, Captain America (Chris Evans) has continued being the poster boy for S.H.I.E.L.D. and helping lead the agency’s covert spy operations while still trying to adapt to living in the 21st century. During a mission to recover a stolen S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from pirate Georges Batroc it is revealed that Nick Fury has ulterior motives besides just rescuing the ship’s workers. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is tasked with extracting sensitive data regarding Operation: Insight, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s latest technology that will eliminate potential threats before they become dangerous using spy satellites and three linked Helicarriers. It’s this that makes Steve Rogers stop and think about who he’s taking orders from, but a new threat emerges before he can get the answers he’s looking for.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier rivals the best political thriller. At the top of the S.H.I.E.L.D. ladder is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), the senior-most member of the company and member of the World Security Council. He’s the one in charge of Operation: Insight and believes that the key to a safe America is by preemptively eliminating threats. Captain America, as strong as he may be, is just a foot soldier.
Hunting him down is The Winter Soldier, a mysterious assassin with a robotic arm that can match the Captain blow for blow. The film does an excellent job at setting the scene with his character and then in typical Marvel fashion wows audiences with a one-two punch. As with any of the Marvel Studio films, the more you know about the mythology of the comic, the more you get out of the film.
That being said, even if you only follow from within the confines of the films Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still a finely crafted film. It immediately grabs you from the beginning and doesn’t let go until the credits roll.
From the characters and the cameos to the references and subplots, there’s a lot to take in. As much as there is going on, though, it all makes perfect sense and fits within the confines of the universe Marvel has done so well to create. Even more, the film pushes the limits of what’s been done before and changes landscape of said universe for the foreseeable future.
In a world where superheroes often seem invincible, Captain America: The Winter Soldier delivers a thrilling story where the stakes are high and its impact is irreversible. As a result, the payoff is well worth it.