Home » Years » 2014 » Captain America: The Winter Soldier ••••

Captain America: The Winter Soldier ••••

Captain_America_The_Winter_SoldierStarring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Screenplay: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely
Action/Adventure/Sci-Fi, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 136 minutes
Release Date: April 4, 2014
Captain America: Single, P-P Moral, Pro (Untransformed Lone Hero)
Pierce/Brock: Duo, N-NN Moral, Ant (Irredemable Mastermind/Henchman Villains)
Winter Soldier: Single, N-N Moral, Ant (Untransformed Henchman Villain)


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Well, Scott, it’s our patriotic duty to review Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

It’s going to be hard writing a review with my right hand over my heart and the other hand saluting. But I’ll give it an All-American try.

We meet our intrepid hero, Steve Rogers (aka Captain America played by Chris Evans) running laps around newcomer Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). The two exchange army stories and Rogers is driven off by beautiful spy-woman Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson). Rogers rushes away to a mission where he and Romanoff rescue hostages on a S.H.I.E.L.D. secret ship. Along the way they pick up a thumb drive of super secret information.

Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Rogers confronts director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about being kept in the dark about Black Widow’s separate mission. Fury is later ambushed by a formidable masked soldier (Sebastian Stan) who appears to kill Fury. Using data from the thumbdrive, Rogers and Romanoff discover a vast underground bunker containing the intelligent e-remains of Arnim Zola (Toby Jones), who reveals a vast evil operation inside S.H.I.E.L.D. that has badly compromised the organization.

Scott The Winter Soldier delivers a fast-paced, action packed sequel to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Not only was it a great action movie, but it also had an interesting take on modern-day warfare. You see, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. director Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) are building these mega-drones which are designed to pre-emptively kill anyone S.H.I.E.L.D. deems is a threat. If it sounds a bit like our drone program and President Obama’s “kill list,” that’s no accident. Writers Marcus and McFeely were aiming at just that.

Fury tries to read the thumb drive Romanoff acquired and finds it has been encrypted by S.H.I.E.L.D. itself – which makes Fury think that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. After the attempt on his life, Fury makes his way back to Rogers’ apartment and hands the device over to him and warns him not to trust anyone. Then Fury dies. Now the race is on for Rogers and Romanoff to discover who killed Fury, what is on the thumb drive, and who is the mole inside S.H.I.E.L.D.

I agree, Greg. This movie is a winner. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a good movie on several different levels. First, the casting is as rock solid as Steve Roger’s biceps, with Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, and Robert Redford all charismatically bringing their characters to life. While the hero story itself is not terribly standout, the villain tale may be the best we’ve seen this year. In fact, from where I stand, the villain story carries the movie.

I don’t mean to disrespect Captain America; he is a stalwart hero. Rogers is more than worthy of the hero label, embodying every single trait in the great eight attributes of heroes – he is smart, strong, resilient, reliable, caring, selfless, charismatic, and inspiring. Ironically, this perfection may also be Captain America’s weakness. There is no room for development or transformation in his character, and we know that hero transformation is the quintessential characteristic of a good hero.

Rogers is working on some demons of his own, Scott. He’s still not at home in the new millenium. He feels uncomfortable in his soft bed and is still getting the hang of the internet. He confides these feelings to new friend Sam Wilson who is a war veteran and runs a local Veterans Administration support group. While Rogers is every bit the hero, he can still be vulnerable. In fact, Romanoff keeps trying to set him up with co-workers back at S.H.I.E.L.D, but Rogers isn’t ready. In many ways, he’s still the embodiment of a 1940’s corn-bred, down-home, American boy. So, there’s room for growth. But I have to agree, he’s pretty much fully-formed as a hero.

We’ve seen this in other hero stories from Marvel as well. We reviewed last year’s The Wolverine and Thor: The Dark World and noted that episodic heroes rarely make gains in the personal development area. We need our heroes to return to us at the end of the story quite as we found them at the beginning. This way we know what we’re getting when we return next time.

There were other supporting heroes in this movie as well. And kudos to the actors as well as the writers and directors for giving everyone equal screen time. Black Widow is just as kick-ass in this installment as in 2011’s The Avengers. Scott, we’re always looking for great female heroes and Black Widow doesn’t disappoint. Although she’s not Rogers’ physical equal, she’s plenty strong and very smart. Also, newcomer Sam Wilson emerges as Falcon. I’m looking forward to seeing more of him in Marvel’s universe.

Greg, you’re absolutely right that we have a stellar ensemble cast here. Somehow, despite the fact that there are a multitude of characters, the movie smoothly takes all the complex pieces and weaves a coherent tale that never leaves us confused. This is excellent filmmaking and directors Anthony and Joe Russo deserve great kudos.

Best of all, the film weaves a complex and multi-layered tale of villainy. I detected three very different types of villains, and each one of them was fun to watch. First, we once again encounter a mastermind-muscle pairing with Alexander Pierce as the mastermind and Brock (Frank Grillo) as his goon who carries out the dirty work. Second, Pierce plays the role of the insider or defector villain, who unexpectedly defects from the side of good and becomes a villain. In my second book on heroes, we call this a transposed hero-villain character.

Third, there is the villain who doesn’t voluntarily defect from the good guys but who is captured and brainwashed into becoming a villain. The brainwashed villain here is Bucky Barnes, and he follows the usual pattern of snapping out of his brainwashed state by clever reverse psychology from the hero Steve Rogers. In what is perhaps the most emotionally moving scene in the film, Rogers is about to be beaten to death by Barnes and invokes their relationship loyalty as a reason why Barnes should finish him off. This is a powerful scene.

Good observations on the villains, Scott. I also detected the hidden villain in the form of Dr. Zola. We saw this in this year’s Ride Along and Non-Stop. He is hardly seen in the traditional sense but was pulling levers the whole time. He also gets credit for the usual “Evil Gloating” trope in this film as he explains where everything comes from and how S.H.I.E.L.D. was corrupted.

We do see the mastermind-muscle villain pair quite a lot in movies. The Grand Budapest Hotel had that one too. It seems pretty popular with filmmakers to have a villain who doesn’t like to get his hands dirty but sends others to do his dirty work. Interestingly, we don’t see that pattern among heroes. Usually the hero is front and center with the action. Even in The Winter Soldier, Nick Fury sends others to do his bidding, but he is plenty active in this film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an entertaining movie that is more than mere mindless fun. The movie has layered, complex relationships among its characters, and it features some of the most well-developed villain characters that we’ve seen in the movies in a long time. The Winter Soldier is a film that I’d see twice, which is high praise coming from a guy who is rarely impressed with comic book superhero flicks. The movie comes close to earning all 5 Reels but falls just short. I give it 4 out of 5 Reels.

As I’ve noted, our hero Steve Rogers is pretty darn perfect from start to finish. He’s a terrific character, a man caught out of time but who manages to morally outshine everyone he encounters in the modern era. Because I don’t see a whole lot of character transformation, I can only award the good Captain a respectable 3 Heroes out of 5.

The villains carry this movie and give it some unexpected heft and depth. I saw 3 villain types and Greg observed a 4th as well. I applaud any movie that intuitively knows that audiences thirst for an understanding of evil almost as much as they do an appreciation for good. I give all these terrific villains a rating of 4 Villains out of 5.

Movie: reel-4Heroes: h-logo-3 Villains: villain-4


I agree, to a point. Captain America doesn’t let up on the action and the all-star cast was well-played. I did see it again and enjoyed it even more the second time around. I give Captain America: The Winter Soldier 4 out of 5 Reels as well.

I liked Steve Rogers more than you did, Scott. I agree that he is a pretty well-stacked hero character from the beginning. He measures really well on your Great Eight scale. And I saw dimensionality in his relationships that we don’t often see in super heroes. I give Steve Rogers 4 out of 5 Heroes.

I have to disagree with your villain rating. These were good villains, but not great. We got a variety of villainy but these are the same villains we’ve seen before. Little backstory, little dimension. We have yet to see a villain that transforms. But I predict that by the end of the summer one or two Marvel films will have more deep villains worthy of your high praise. I can only give these bad guys 3 out of 5 Villains.

Movie: reel-4 Heroes: h-logo-4 Villains: villain-3

1 Comment

  1. emmaglitch says:

    Since I tend to wait for the DVD, I have made peace with spoilers. I appreciate the warnings, mostly on behalf of my younger self, who didn’t have the capacity to forget the spoilers in the excitement of watching the film or reading the book. I approach each reread and rewatch as if it were my first viewing or reading. Now that I know I can read Reel Heroes without spoiling my later enjoyment, I’ll be back.

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