By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The good thing about the three Captain America movies, Winter Soldier included, is that writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus have a set theme in mind: stand up for liberty and freedom no matter what. Abe Lincoln said it best to Henry Pierce, “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.”
In this case, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has to learn just how that rhetoric has changed throughout time. He has to question who has the final authority in a mission or in whose agenda he has to serve. As the plot develops in this movie, he finds that he has to stand up to scrutiny amongst his peers. As to why Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) went to visit him in his apartment to hand off an important key — a hardware device — that can undermine everything that S.H.I.E.L.D. has built itself up for.
Half the film is a huge cat and mouse game that staggers between moments of a cold war thriller to lengthy blow them up chases around Washington, D.C. In between these segments are moments of plot which defines the characters of Rogers, Fury and Natasha Romanoff / The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) so that they are characters that audiences can feel for. They are human beings than comic book characters.
Sam Wilson’s (Anthony Mackie) purpose is uncertain and he does not earn his wings until later. As the Falcon, both he and Captain America become a new duo that evil-doers will have to contend with. Their quick camaraderie is not as well-defined. More could have been done in the script to show that their relationship is not about this pair outpacing another in a jog around the park.
Audiences do learn they work for the same organization, but how they become partners much like how Captain America and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Sam) were in the past is not clear. The flashbacks in Winter Soldier and rewatching the first film may help, but the juxtapositions are made too late.
Even the trust or distrust is an essence in this film that does not get emphasized enough. The film begins with a great discourse between Rogers and Fury, but it does not follow through enough. Fury revealed this spoiler in the trailers for this film, and that sets the stage for this movie.
Instead, what happens are segments that leads to the next chase or fight sequence. Once Rogers gets accused for the assassination attempt on Fury, everyone in the intelligence organization is after him. He does not know who to believe in. This bit of espionage is fun to watch and directors Anthony and Joe Russo do a reasonable job at getting audiences to wonder who the true villain is. In the spy game, anyone, including the butler, might be the culprit. Or is it the Winter Soldier? This heavy metal warrior shows up at the most inopportune of times as a black operative (a mirror opposite of the Captain) who is only following orders issued by somebody else.
But who is it, really? With no doubt, The Black Widow and Falcon are the only ones the Captain can go to. With Fury perhaps realizing that he has to go deep underground and not be a public figure under the watchful eye of a higher authority, just what will become of this organization will not be known until future movies are made and the other script writers dwell upon it. Joss Whedon is going to have his hands full with his writing team to make sure the consequences from the coming movies will nicely flow to the next Avengers movie. Just how the team will reunite is going to be interesting!
And the after movie sequences teased at in this film and in the post-credits scene sets the stage for the next film, X-men: Days of Future Past. A few months later will be Guardians of the Galaxy. After that, unless Marvel Entertainment pulls an unexpected move to fit in another movie before, Avengers: Age of Ultron, only one Marvel movie is going to be the highlight of the 2015 year. It is almost surprising that there is not another Hulk or Doctor Strange movie in the works.
3½ Stars out of 5