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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

What She said:

She

If you read my review for the first Captain America movie a few years back, you know that it’s probably my least favorite of the more recent Marvel movies.  I just kind of found it boring.  But I really enjoyed the Cap’s character in The Avengers and for some reason felt hyped for the sequel to the 2011 film.  I’m happy to say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier is MUCH more interesting than the first film, filled with action, intrigue, and decent comedy.  It feels more like a true Marvel film, and is a solid addition to the franchise.

The film opens approximately two years after the big Avengers showdown in New York.  Steve Rogers aka Captain America is living back in Washington, D.C., and has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D.  It’s been a bit of a struggle for him, as he’s still having identity crisis issues based on the fact that he was cryogenically frozen for much of the 20th century.  Rogers is called off on a mission with Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, where they need to free hostages from pirates who have taken over a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel.  Romanoff is also charged with bringing back some computer data from the ship—as special assignment for Nick Fury.  When Fury is unable to view the encrypted files, despite supposedly having override access, he begins to suspect that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised.  This is particularly troubling because they’re about to launch Project Insight, a large scale security program that involves three Helicarriers and several spy satellites.

Fury’s worries are well-founded, and he is quickly ambushed by some guys who look serious, as well as a mysterious super-assassin called the Winter Soldier.  He gets the snot beat out of him, but manages to retreat to Rogers’ apartment.  When Rogers comes home, he has a brief interlude with Fury before a sniper picks off the S.H.I.E.L.D. leader.  Fury is seemingly killed.  Rogers and Romanoff, both distraught over Fury’s death, try to get to the bottom of what is going on.  Rogers knows that he should trust no one from S.H.I.E.L.D., because the organization is corrupt.  Rogers and Romanoff end up uncovering HYDRA, a secret operation founded during WWII, which has infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., and which is planning to use S.H.I.E.L.D. and Project Insight to take command over civilization.  There are so many people secretly working for HYDRA that it’s not even funny. 

As can be expected, Rogers and Romanoff become enemy number one, and spend much of the movie trying to escape being shot and killed.  They also enlist former USAP pararescueman Sam Wilson, who uses his Falcon wingpack to soar through the air.  He’s also a glorified superhero.  There’s lots of fighting, and exploding, and hand-on-hand combat.  Oh, and Rogers reveals the true identity of the Winter Soldier, and let’s just say that what he learns does not please him.  It’s indicated that the Winter Soldier will become a larger storyline in the next Captain America film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

So, I guess I probably should have said “spoiler alert” before writing that plot description, because I pretty much just blew the entire movie for you if you haven’t seen it.  And if you have seen it, then why are you reading this review to begin with?  Anyway, sorry about that.  I think you’ll still enjoy the film.  All of the actors do a great job of bringing their characters to screen and making them somewhat relatable, despite the fact they’re pretty much superhuman.  Chris Evans’ depiction of Rogers is sulky in this film.  He’s troubled and listless, but not to a fault.  He never loses sight of his all-American ideals that make him a likeable throwback to a bygone era.  Scarlett Johansson as Romanoff is witty and becomes a loyal sidekick to Rogers.  She’s come a long way, considering that in her past he was a ruthless mercenary who would pretty much do anything for a paycheck.  She’s double-crossed a lot of people during her career, but seems like she can be trusted now.  I enjoyed the addition of the Sam Wilson/Falcon character.  Played by Anthony Mackie, he works well with Rogers because they’re both veterans who have dealt with loss.  I can see their relationship growing in future movies.  Of course, there’s a whole lot of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and he’s great, as always.  You’ll also see a repeat of Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Rogers’ childhood friend who you thought was killed in WWII.  But all is not as it seems.

So yeah, we’ve got good action and great special effects.  It’s impressive to see how far CGI has come, as it’s challenging to make hover space machines look realistic, but this movie does so with ease.  Going along with that, the film has very good sound editing and cinematography, which helps to make the myriad action sequences feel authentic.  One thing that really shines in this movie is the hand-on-hand combat sequences—and there are plenty of them.  The fighting is fast, tight, and downright impressive.  I wish I had the ninja skills that these people do.

I felt like I got a little lost in the plot of this film for a bit, but things seemed to clear up as I gained a better understanding of HYDRA and what their role was with S.H.I.E.L.D.  There are a lot of characters here who are not who they seem, and so that lends itself to some disorientation.  But I was able to follow, and overall I was impressed with the solid plot of this movie.  It was interesting, thrilling, and genuine.

I enjoyed this movie MUCH more than the last Captain America, and think fans of the franchise and of action/spy films in general will also appreciate it.  This is a very solid way to open the summer movie season.

Thumbs up.

What He said:

He

The attack on New York (as seen in The Avengers) changed everything. It’s been two years since Loki and his alien army invaded and Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury, is doing everything in his power to ensure Earth is ready when (it’s not a matter of if) it happens again.

One of the things Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is planning is to create three giant ships, called Helicarriers, that will be linked to spy satellites in an attempt to prevent future attacks. These things will be pluged into, well just about everything, to observe potential threats and deal with them before they get to the level of the New York attack. Captain America (Chris Evans) is not too crazy about this plan. Cap is a good guy and will always fight for his country, protect the innocent, and all that other good stuff, but having seen what he did during WWII (with Hitler and the Red Skull) he is worried that Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D are overstepping their bounds and in dangerously close to turning into what they are fighting against.

He becomes even more concerned when, during a recent mission, fellow agent Natasha Romanoff (AKA The Black Widow) seems to have her own agenda. While Cap and the rest of the strike team are rescuing the hostages, she’s busy retrieving some kind of data from a computer. Cap was completely unaware of her mission and confronts Fury about it. Even more troublesome is that once Fury gets the data, he’s unable to access it. When he plugs the USB drive into his computer to read the information, he’s told he doesn’t have the security clearance needed to access the information. So now both Cap and Fury are thinking that something is up.

Before either one of them can investigate any further, Fury is attacked. On his way to meet with his right hand gal, Maria Hill, he is ambushed by a bunch of people dressed as police officers, but are very clearly not good guys. He’s chased all over downtown D.C. and being shot at the entire time; in what is an extremely entertaining chase scene by the way. He takes a beating, and seems to be in the clear, but then he runs into a guy who is later identified as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

Through this encounter and several others throughout the movie, we find out that the Winter Soldier is Cap’s equal in every way. He appears to have all of the superhuman strength, agility, and endurance that Captain America does. He’s also an expert in hand-to-hand combat, knows his way around most weapons, and instead of a shield (like Cap), he has a robotic arm. Cap and his team encounter him several times and to put it mildly, he’s one bad dude.

Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) end up going on the run. S.H.I.E.L.D has been compromised and an old enemy has resurfaced as well. HYDRA – the organization created by Hitler and the Red Skull in the first Captain America – is somehow back from the dead. Despite both Hitler and the Red Skull being long gone, the ideals of the terrorist group have somehow survived. So, Cap and Black Widow are branded traitors by the corrupt individuals within their own government, must somehow prove their innocence, and also have to avoid the Winter Soldier and HYDRA; while figuring out what they want too.

Despite the fact that I disliked the first movie, I liked that this movie weaved a lot of elements from it into this sequel. The first movie has a very old school, pulpy, classic adventure feel to it. I have no problem with that – and actually like that – but I just didn’t like the execution in the first movie. The inclusion of those elements – and the movie itself – was much better this time around. I loved the references to Nazis, the occult, experimentation with advanced technology, and other hokey stuff Nazis were said to have dabbled in (in fiction at least). I dig that kind of stuff, especially when executed well, and this movie did just that.

The other element of this movie – which was also brilliantly executed – was it felt like a real spy thriller. This movie had all the tension, double-crossing, espionage related activities, and action you’d see in a Jason Bourne. Make no mistake, this is a comic book/superhero movie, but  if felt like a military/spy flick that just so happened to have superheroes in it. It was well-acted, very realistic, despite the fantastical elements of the storyline, and is a legitimately good movie. The whole thing is executed very well.

I didn’t like the first movie at all, but Chris Evans is an excellent Captain America. Cap is a pretty dynamic guy. He was alive during WWII and has a very old-school , idealistic, and patriotic personality. He’s a gentleman, genuinely nice guy, but because of that whole being frozen for 70 years thing, is trying to adjust to modern life. He doesn’t always understand or agree with the way the modern world works. He’s also a really tough guy. Don’t let the fact that he’s a nice guy fool you. He’s not only superhuman, but extremely well trained in combat, and will take on anybody if threatened.

The Black Widow is his partner in crime in this movie. She’s alongside him just about the entire movie. Their relationship develops into a very solid partnership over the course of the movie. After a while, they start to remind you of Riggs and Murtaugh,  Starsky and Hutch, or one of the many other great odd couples in the history fictional cops. Cap and Widow aren’t exactly cops, but that’s not the point. The Widow is the exact opposite of Cap. She’s got questionable ethics, and a more than questionable past, but is honestly trying to turn her life around. The movies never delve too much into what exactly it is she did in the past, but you get the impression she wasn’t the best person in the world. She’s does not have Cap’s 1940s ideals and is willing to go to places he isn’t. Their dynamic is great and Scarlett Johansson makes that possible. She has come a long way portraying the character. She was a little stiff during her first appearance, in Iron Man 2, as the character, but has really taken command of it in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Speaking of the Winter Soldier, how can I not mention this guy? He’s one of the coolest villains I’ve seen since Darth Maul. He doesn’t say much. He is a man of action and that is completely ok. In fact, it probably works best for a character like this. He’s almost like a terminator. He has no feelings or thoughts about his mission, he just wants to complete it, and will stop at nothing until he does. Unlike Darth Maul though, this character actually has a bit of a back story, and it’s just enough to make the character interesting. He’s already cool, because he’s a coldblooded killer, but the little bit of backstory they give you is just enough to create a little depth. Sebastian Stan was fantastic. He’s my pick for villain of the year and I cannot wait to see the character again in future Marvel movies.

When I heard Robert Redford was in this movie, like many others, I was surprised. This doesn't seem like his genre at all, but that didn't stop him from putting on a very solid performance. Samuel L. Jackson was excellent as usual, as Nick Fury. He was simply born to play that role.

I wouldn’t hesitate to call this one of Marvel’s best movies. It’s up there with The Avengers an the first Iron Man, which are generally thought to be the strongest of all these movies. This movie was entertaining from start-to-finish. Cobie Smulders is also a great background character. Maria Hill is Fury's #1, so even though she's not on screen as much of the others, she's an important periphery character.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on April 26, 2014.

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