This is the first time that I’ve drifted from video games on this blog, but given my love of movies as well as games, I see no reason not to touch on them. I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers here, but it’s impossible to discuss most films without a few minor spoilers. I should be able to avoid the biggest ones though.
The Winter Soldier finds a Captain America that is still searching for his place in the world. You get the idea that he is regularly employed by Nick Fury and SHIELD to carry out the most dangerous of missions. Early on, it becomes evident that Cap isn’t comfortable with the level of power those tasked with protecting us wield, leading him to question whether or not he even wants to continue with SHIELD. This theme of power and corruption is the primary driving theme in the movie, and leads to Cap forging a friendship with Sam Wilson, a vet that comic readers will recognize as The Falcon, a persona he adopts in The Winter Soldier (and whose wings look like they’d be extremely fun to take for a spin).
It isn’t long in the film before the aforementioned Winter Soldier shows up. An assassin that has been active for over 50 years, the Winter Soldier is regarded as a legend by most, but is all too real, proving himself the equal of Cap in their first fight. Fans of the comics know that the Winter Soldier is none other than Bucky Barnes, childhood and adult friend of Steve Rogers, brainwashed and enhanced after his plummet into a canyon in the first Captain America movie. As if this revelation isn’t enough for Rogers, the bulk of the film finds Captain America on the run as a fugitive of SHIELD along with the Black Widow, due to his refusal to tell anyone exactly what Nick Fury told him after showing up in his (Cap’s) apartment prior to being shot by the Winter Soldier, leading to his (Fury’s) apparent death. This is about as much of the plot that I can give without ruining the film, but suffice it to say that, much to my own surprise, this movie ties right back into the first Captain America film, despite the original taking place during World War II. This movie also sees the return of a few faces from previous films, such as Agent Stillwell, most recently seen on Agents of SHIELD, and Garry Shandling, who returns as the Congressman nemesis of Tony Stark from Iron Man 2.
I would call The Winter Soldier a Political Action Thriller, and an extremely good one at that. While a comic action film at its heart, the plot is surprisingly deep and topical with many revelations that left me quite surprised, and will reshape the landscape of the Marvel universe, from Age of Ultron down to the Agents of SHIELD television show. See, while this is a great movie on its own, it is elevated when viewed in light of the larger universe it belongs too. Mentions of Tony Stark and glimpses of past characters from other Marvel films are great in jokes. As an aside, my personal favorite “larger universe” moment was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it name drop of Stephen Strange (surely a Dr. Strange movie can’t be too far away based on that). Beyond the little moments that tie this film into the others, are the much larger ramifications that this film creates. Being the last film prior to Age of Ultron in the Marvel Universe (I can’t see Guardians of the Galaxy tying into this storyline just yet, though I could be wrong), The Winter Soldier creates more questions for where we go from here than it attempts to answer. Understand, I’m not saying that the plot isn’t resolved, it very much is, and if you’ve only seen the Captain America movies, you’ll leave feeling that all is basically tied up, but again, if you’re a fan of the overall universe, you can’t help but wonder where the storyline is headed.
On both levels, The Winter Soldier is an extremely good movie. It stands strong on its own two feet without needing to be supported by its spiritual siblings. In the end, those moments, as I stated above, are simply gravy to what is already a strong film. With his backstory out of the way, we’re able to enjoy the already established character of Captain America. I truly can’t wait to see how this film sets up the Age of Ultron Avengers sequel and what will follow that. By the way, it may be worth sitting through some credits to get a glimpse of two very special twins that may or may not be joining said sequel.