Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014 movie)

As one expects from a comic book movie, most of this one is ridiculously over-the-top action, but there’s more to it than that, notably an underlying theme of the trade-offs between freedom and order. It doesn’t have anything too subtle or profound to say on the subject, though it comes down clearly on the side of freedom, but it’s still more thoughtful than you’ll get from the average TV pundit or politician, and ideally it might encourage some members of the audience to think about it and the associated question it brings up of dumping masses of top-secret files onto the Internet, as one of the good guys does in the movie.

The title character’s powers may be a little far-fetched, but as a person he comes across as believable, something in considerable part attributable to actor Chris Evans. I’m sure a few cynics would insist Captain America is too decent and courageous to be true, but in fact you would not have to search through very many fire departments to find someone just as heroic without the super powers.

(Granted, you might also encounter a villain who exclaims, “Hail Hydrant!” It takes all kinds.)

Another major character is Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson is another fine actor, though playing a woman who’s brilliant and hot is hardly a stretch for her. One of her best moments is in a deleted scene, and interestingly enough when she saw the rough cut she suggested dropping that scene to improve the pacing. The directors, Anthony and Joe Russo, observed that it’s pretty unusual for an actor to recommend cutting her own scene, especially a good one, and they expressed the opinion that she ought to be directing.

Anthony Mackie is Captain America’s other sidekick and is another believable hero, a military veteran whose day job is working at a VA hospital helping people deal with PTSD and the like. He turns out to have an unexpected useful skill that comes in very handy later in the movie.

The action scenes are well done (and admittedly they’re a major part of what most audiences want to see), but they take up so much of the running time that some other potentially interesting secondary characters get hardly any screen time, so we never get to know them. There is a nice little scene in which the hero (who was frozen and presumed dead for several decades) visits his World War II girlfriend, now in her 90s. Stan Lee, who’s 91 himself, has a nice cameo as a Smithsonian security guard. And of course Samuel L Jackson is around.

It’s not as good as the previous two films to feature Captain America (counting The Avengers (2012)), but I still mildly recommend it and have reasonable hopes for the next one.


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