Steve Rogers is a still a man out of time. While Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow and Hulk can go back home after The Avengers, he’s still a man from the 1940’s trying to get a handle on the 21st Century. It won’t be long before he’s part of another battle between good and evil, which is a timeless conflict.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a great espionage drama where you have to wonder who the good guys are, especially if they’re also the bad guys in disguise. It’s not exactly Three Days of the Condor, but it would be how comics would handle it, with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) playing the role of the spy suddenly betrayed by the organization he trusted It’s also about a man of the past who has problems dealing with the present, but gets threatened by a part of his past that could really ruin our future.
Steve is settling in with the world of 2014, but some things puzzle him, like disco, Rocky II (maybe movie sequels), the Berlin Wall and I Love Lucy. He also gets the feeling that he’s a museum piece, especially since his story is a featured part of the Smithsonian. He’s getting a little help from Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a war vet who has his problems getting back to civilian life, but also helps others for the VA.
Soon, it’s back to SHIELD business, as Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) try to rescue hostages from a SHIELD ship taken by French pirates. However, she has a side mission, getting some intel from one of the computers. This is news to Cap, who thinks it could have ruined the mission. He talks about it with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and is soon let on to Project Insight, which means bigger toys for SHIELD to keep us safe. Cap is skeptical about all this, telling Fury “it’s not freedom, this is fear”.
He later meets Alexander Payne (Robert Redford), from the World Security Council. He explains that to create a new world, you have to tear the old one down, and that some won’t like that. Redford looks like a statesman, but his ideas on “building a new world” may be too sinister for some people. Casting him in this movie was a very nice touch, especially if you remember he was in All the President’s Men.
Things change quickly when Fury is attacked by fake cops, and a mysterious man later identified as the Winter Soldier. He used to be Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has been rebuilt by HYDRA as a killer, with no memory of his past or Cap. Stan has the cold look of a killer down cold, but still has the face of an angel, even a scarred one.
How Barnes was changed, and how Cap and Black Widow find out, will blow you away. Let’s just say a key scene outdoes another movie that’s coming this month.
Evans is still the All-American hero, although it would have been great to see Cap struggle with modern times a little more, like maybe trying to join Twitter. He may accept the world in its current state, but relies on core beliefs about freedom that are never old-fashioned, especially in our post-9/11 world. As he prepares to confront the Winter Soldier, he’ll make a move that will upset a familiar-looking security guard.
Johansson is better here as Black Widow than she was in her two previous appearances. She is comfortable with making shady decisions, but when her faith is shaken you can see the hurt inside. Mackie is a great addition when he joins the battle as the Falcon, who, like Cap, knows what it’s like to lose a wingman. Emily Vancamp from Revenge also plays a small role as Steve’s neighbor who is more than she seems to be.
The movie has plenty of familiar faces, including Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and three others that will surprise you. One of them will make you look at Agents of SHIELD quite differently, at least for a while. Fans are already speculating how the movie will affect the show, starting with the nex episode on April 8th.
This may be the best Marvel movie yet, because it’s grounded to the current political landscape, which includes fears that the government is invading our rights “for our own good.” There may be too much super-tech for some, but otherwise it’s still a compelling spy story with a superhero as the lead.
Also, check the gravestone towards the end of the movie. It’ll have a very familiar quote.
Of course, there are two post-credit scenes. The first one completes the link to Marvel’s Avengers sequel, Avengers 2: Age of Ultron (in theatres may 2015). The other might mean something sometime in Phase 3.