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Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

“On your left.” Those are the first words uttered by Steve Rogers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. He’s out on a morning run near the Washington Monument when he blasts past a man who is about to become one of his only friends in the world. It’s an appropriate opening line too, as co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo have come out of left field to deliver the best Marvel movie this side of The Avengers.

World War II is over. The Battle of New York is won. Red Skull’s forces, Loki’s invading Chitauri army — that’s all in the past. But there’s always a new war on the horizon. Where there’s war, there’s a call for soldiers — and there’s no soldier better than the super-soldier himself. Years after his overdue wake-up call at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger and the assembling of Earth’s mightiest heroes in The Avengers, Captain America has stayed true to his calling, serving as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. alongside old comrades like Black Widow, and newer (but no less morally gray) faces like Brock Rumlow.

Co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo came out of left field to deliver the best Marvel movie this side of The Avengers.

But modern warfare isn’t a game that comes naturally to Cap. (Not the video game, mind you, though that’s something Steve might want to put on his to-do list.) The all-access, free-information world he now calls home isn’t as foreign as it was when he woke up years ago, but it’s a world that demands tactics and beliefs he’s uncomfortable with — like a top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier program designed to assassinate targets before they become threats, for instance.

As it happens, the feeling is mutual. The high-tech world of shadowy spies and ambiguous agendas disagrees with Cap just as much as he disagrees with it. It’s not long before those opposing viewpoints collide, courtesy of a shocking assassination, a top-level betrayal, and a ghost from the past. On the bright side? At least Cap knows who he’s fighting.

The Winter Soldier takes the Captain America franchise from Nazi Germany to present-day Washington, from war movie to political thriller. It’s a big leap, but not a jarring one. The Russo brothers tip their hats to the era that Cap left behind, all while keeping their eyes, hearts, and minds on the modern world and its clear and present dangers. There are enough callbacks to The First Avenger to keep the films connected, from flashback sequences to cameos. By and large, however, Winter Soldier moves fast and furious into our world; it’s a new start for the series, one that’s completely earned by how the star-spangled superhero left things at the end of Avengers.

As it leaves the frontlines of World War II, Winter Soldier slips into the shadows of covert ops, and the action follows suit. The movie’s opening action scene sees Cap stealthily and systematically working his way through a hostage situation, the camera capturing every landed punch, every bone-crunch, every slam of the shield. There’s a car chase centered on Nick Fury that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Fast & Furious film. And there’s the Winter Soldier himself, spraying bullets and launching grenades through most of his scenes. The action is brutal and breathtaking. The Russos take a grounded, street-level approach to violence that stands out from the rest of the Marvel Studios pack.

But even as Winter Soldier wheels and deals in darkness, the movie doesn’t step away from the light that makes Marvel’s movies work. It never veers toward comedy the way that Iron Man, or even the Thor films, typically swing. But there are big laughs in Winter Soldier, thanks in large part to great performances, and how the characters interact with one another. For instance, Anthony Mackie brings immeasurable warmth and charisma as Sam “Falcon” Wilson; the fun he’s having on screen is infectious, and impossible to ignore. The film even makes use of Chris Evans’ comedic chops, infusing the vanilla Captain America with the right hit of spice.

The film carries the Captain America title, but it could just as easily go by Secret Avengers.

The levity flows freely from every corner of the ensemble cast, from Scarlett Johansson’s dry wit as brilliantly badass Black Widow to Robert Redford’s old-school World Security Council leader Alexander Pierce. Really, much of the movie’s success comes from the ensemble. The film carries the Captain America title, but it could just as easily go by Secret Avengers. Make no mistake: as Cap, Evans turns in some of the most enjoyable work of his career, and serves as the lynchpin that holds the movie together. But between Cap, Widow, Falcon, Nick Fury, and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), there’s an argument that Winter Soldier is as much a team-up movie as it is a solo superhero act.

The other reason to take issue with the title is the Winter Soldier himself — or lack thereof. Sebastian Stan, returning from his First Avenger tour of duty, speaks little more than 10 lines of dialogue in the entire film. He’s less a character and more a walking, talking, Terminator-modeled MacGuffin. It’s thrilling to watch the Winter Soldier in action, but the film’s focus and interests mostly lie elsewhere. Ultimately, it’s a minor complaint in the face of everything the movie gets right — especially because there’s big potential for improvement in the sequel, rumored for release in 2016.


The Marvel Cinematic Universe is populated by quippy playboy billionaires, thunder-fueled aliens, and giant green rage monsters — but as of now, it’s the straight-jawed, 90-year-old stiff that stands out as the most compelling and dynamic of the bunch. That’s a testament to Evans, Marvel, and the Russo brothers’ vision, and their combined ability to create a high-stakes political thriller starring a guy wearing star-spangled tights. “On your left,” indeed.

(Images and video © Marvel)

Editors' Recommendations

A spoiler filled look at scenes from Captain America: The Winter Soldier
spoiler filled look scenes captain america winter soldier cap 2

If you have been dodging any and all potential spoilers regarding Captain America: The Winter Soldier, then stop reading right now. Seriously, thanks for clicking on the article, but there’s at least one image recently released by Marvel Studios that spoils what non-comic book fans may not have seen coming.
Last warning.
Ok, for those that stayed and aren’t concerned by spoilers, the images is of the Winter Soldier. It is the first clear image of the character without a mask on. If you know the comics or have been looking for details on the film, then you already know the big twist regarding who the Winter Soldier is. 
The rest of the images are more general, and it’s nothing you won’t see in the trailer. You’ll note Cap wearing his WWII uniform, Anthony Mackie as the Falcon looking tough, and Cobie Smulders looking surprised as Marie Hill.
The screenshots should help to whet your appetite for the film, which debuts on April 4, 2014.

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Captain America: Winter Soldier Super Bowl trailer kicks off the big game
captain america winter soldier super bowl trailer captin

The latest trailer for Captain America: Winter Soldier kicked off an evening of multi-million dollar advertisements and trailers for movies that cost more to make than the gross national product of a mid-sized nation. There's going to be some football too. 
The new two-and-a-half minute peek at Marvel Studios' April 4 release shows off a bunch of new stuff. You can see Black Widow's new hairdo (ever notice how it changes in every movie?), Winter Soldier's robo-arm, Falcon swooping around like a boss, and Cap beating the crap out of an elevator full of dudes in suits.
Don't take our word for it. Just hit play below.

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Marvel already planning a third Captain America film

Although Captain America: The Winter Soldier won’t hit theaters until April 4, Marvel Studios seems to have enough faith in the film to both move ahead with a third, and bring back the 2014 film’s directors, according to a report from Variety. Marvel has yet to officially confirm a third Captain America film is in the works (and it likely won't for a while), but The Winter Soldier directors Anthony and Joe Russo have reportedly been approached to return to the franchise to helm the next film in the series.
The studio and the directors won’t actually begin negotiations until Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits theaters (and is presumably deemed a financial success). It does, however, show a remarkable amount of confidence, both in the Russo brothers and in the film itself.
The majority of the stars that appear in Captain America: The Winter Soldier are signed on for at least three films or more, so casting shouldn't be an issue. Marvel hasn’t gotten to the point where it is looking to hire writers, but Marvel and the Russos are said to be discussing a general outline for the story of the third film. As with the other Captain America films, Kevin Feige will produce and Chris Evans will star.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier marks only the fourth feature film the Russos have directed since 1997. The brothers have directed several TV shows though, both as a team and individually. The film is based on the Eisner Award-winning writer Ed Brubaker's run in the comics, which introduced the complicated character of the Winter Soldier. Explaining more about the character would be a spoiler, but the film will continue to build on what we’ve seen of Cap so far, both in his solo movie and The Avengers.
A date hasn’t been mentioned for the third Captain America film, but Marvel has already staked out May 6, 2016, and May 5, 2017 for two as-yet-unnamed films.

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