“They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Ed Brubaker’s acclaimed source material is the basis for “The Winter Soldier,” a remarkable and incredible follow-up to 2011’s “Captain America.” I’m very secure in declaring that “The Winter Soldier” is the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Captain America trilogy thus far, as the sequel manages to not only give Captain America the much needed conflict with his American ideals, and age old views on the concept of freedom and liberty, but turns him in to a hero who is no longer fighting for America, but for the idea of America. “The Winter Soldier” picks up right after “The Avengers” where Captain America has essentially taken to SHIELD headquarters as a home base, and doesn’t really keep in touch with his old teammates.
No matter what happened, he’s still the soldier from a bygone generation, and he spends his days running around Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool with his new friend and veteran Sam Wilson, who takes a liking to Steve Rogers, despite his inability to really socialize beyond discussing old war stories. When SHIELD agents are taken hostage aboard a ship, Captain America and Black Widow are called in with other agents to free them, and are drawn in to a web of deceit that not even Nick Fury is capable of comprehending. When Black Widow is compelled to download hard data from the ship’s computer while under attack, Nick Fury soon comes under target by an enigmatic assassin named the Winter Soldier. Soon enough Steve becomes suspect number one toward the attack on Fury, and now Steve is no longer America’s number one soldier. What the Russo brothers’ film centers on first and foremost is the interplay between the inner sanctum of the members of SHIELD and how they ultimately craft the fate of their soldiers and the world.
The Russo’s compose utterly engrossing moments of dialogue and large exposition, while Robert Redford is a welcome addition to the trilogy as SHIELD director Alexander Pierce. He is the first to put out a call for Steve Rogers as a suspect, and soon Steve and Black Widow try to figure out why he and his comrades are so anxious to bring them in, dead or alive. The Russo’s pace the action wonderfully, allowing for amazing battles between our respective heroes and villains that are intricately placed to where they feel detrimental to forward progression in the narrative, and never overlong. Chris Evans really grows in to the role of Steve Rogers, playing at first a titan, who immediately becomes a pariah at war with the country he vowed to serve.
Scarlett Johannson as Black Widow is thankfully given a larger role as his ally in combat who keeps faith in Rogers when everyone else is gunning for him. The stand out is Anthony Mackie who is brilliantly cast as The Falcon, lending the character a dignity and intellect with his amazing wing based technology, and ability to stand by Rogers. “The Winter Soldier” is by no means an empty sequel as it strives to use its villain as a snake in the grass that also double as a subtext for the current American social climate and the very volatile debates about digital privacy (and lack thereof), false flag attacks, drone warfare, and national security that may or may not be in our best interests. With the Russo’s dynamic direction and the top notch screenplay, “The Winter Soldier” goes beyond the red white and blue to test our heroes moral code and ethics once and for all; it’s a sequel with great substance and one of the finest action movies of the year.
Plus, there are the utterly excellent Marvel Easter eggs. Look for those.