In The First Avenger, we got a classic WWII adventure with touches of Kelly’s Heroes, The Dirty Dozen, The Guns of Navarone and a dozen other classics. In contrast, The Winter Soldier is very solidly a spy thriller with the paranoid vibe of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Manchurian Candidate and other such Cold War era offerings.
The movie opens with more of Cap’s struggle to reintegrate into society. This theme is expanded upon as we are reminded you don’t have to be frozen for 70 years to have trouble fitting back in. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the trailers that Cap is also struggling to fit in at S.H.I.E.L.D., butting heads with Nick Fury over the nature of their work and the methods they employ.
“That’s not freedom. That’s fear,” argues Cap when presented with an overview of Operation Insight, a S.H.I.E.L.D. plan to neutralize threats before they happen. “Threats to whom?” Is the question we all must ask ourselves when this kind of rhetoric is bandied about, and indeed is the question Cap should have explored more deeply at this point. Not that it really would have helped much.
Black Widow has a decent role in this film too, which really helps to expand her character from the fairly one-dimensional super spy she’s been in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. We get lots of hints at a sordid past, and I may be reading too much into it, but in one of the penultimate scenes she is asked if she is ready for people to learn about her past. That seemed to me like a subtle hint at a possible standalone film. Not sure where they’d go with it, but I’d sure as hell watch it.
Falcon was a great addition to the roster too, and considering the nature of the threat being faced, his skills were invaluable. The friendship between he and Cap seemed quick, but natural. Trust is another big theme in this movie, as you would expect in something so full of intrigue.
The Winter Soldier is introduced superbly in one of the best car chase / fight scenes I’ve seen in a long time. And just to be clear, I mean car chase and car fight scene. It was great to see Director Fury get out from behind the desk again. The audience gave an audible gasp at The Winter Soldier’s full face reveal, indicating to me there were a lot of new Marvel fans there.
I saw a 3D session, and I’d have to say it didn’t help. The only time the 3D really added anything was when Falcon was zooming about the Helicarriers. The rest of the time it was fairly wasted or actually harmed the viewing experience. The fight scenes, especially the close combat stuff (which was all awesomely choreographed) became very blurry and hard to follow due to the sheer speed of most of the moves being employed. In the end, it’s up to personal choice, but I’d recommend a 2D session for this reason alone.
The movie ends with some huge changes to the Marvel Shared Universe. Game changing events occur. I’m particularly interested to see how this plays out in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Those guys have been doing a reasonable job so far of integrating into the MSU. Their references to Thor: The Dark World were a nice nod to that film, but this one will certainly be very tricky for them to pull off.
Overall I’d have to say this is a favourite. Marvel Studios is going from strength to strength with only the occasional slight stumble (Iron Man 3). The Winter Soldier was, for me, up there with The Avengers. A great mix of character development, action, and that iconic Marvel comedy we’ve come to expect.
We were also treated to a few Easter eggs and teasers along with nice references to other characters that keep us firmly rooted in the MSU as a whole. Bruce Banner’s work plays a small part, as does Tony Stark’s. We had lots of throwbacks to The First Avenger, including the return of more than one character. There was also a cheeky reference to Doctor Strange. And of course we have a mid-credits sequence prefacing Age of Ultron, and a nice little post credits scene hinting at a possible continuation of the Winter Soldier story.
I could go on more about the minutia of the film, but I’d be spoiling a lot of the good stuff, so I’ll just say, watch it ASAP.
As if you weren’t going to already.