In a world where compromises have to be made, and trust is a commodity most people can’t afford, where does a person who has high morals and a belief in the goodness of people belong? Can a person change with the passage of time, or should they adapt and conform to what society wants them to be?
These are two of the main questions that surround CA: TWS. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) finds himself still struggling to fit into a world so many decades ahead of him. While it seems he is fitting in better than we saw in the Avengers, it is still a struggle for him. He repeatedly speaks of struggling to compromise, and feeling that he has choices and decisions taken from him, because of his unwillingness to compromise. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) makes it clear that very few people can be trusted in the world with any whole information, and that Steve needs to accept this, or decide that SHIELD, and the life he currently leads, is not the one he needs.
It is a crossroads that Steve is faced with, one that he has to face down repeatedly through the movie. On one path, is Natasha Romanova/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); an agent who has readily accepted the blood on her hands, and the secrets she has had to keep. On the other? Is a new character, Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie). Like Steve, he lost his best best friend in a war, and instead of continuing to fight, he decided to opt out, afterwards. That that sort of compromise that has to be made, wasn’t worth the effort. When the chips are down, though, Sam proves a true friend and comes to Steve’s aid, repeatedly. As a new character introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he was memorable and fun. Definitely full hero within his own right, and well played by Sam Wilson, Falcon gave a solid grounding to the film, and never felt as his presence was unnecessary.
The villains of this story turn out to be Hydra, the same organization that Steve faced down in the last film. They are a greater threat than when last seen, and have definitely found ways to infiltrate to the heart of SHIELD, and all that Steve holds dear At their disposal is the titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). More machine than man, a brainwashed, soulless killing creature, he has ties to Steve that help solidify the idea that the past will never stay dead. This was where my only complaint about the movie truly lies. While the movie is called The Winter Soldier, there is a decided lack of him within the movie. We see him moving around, large fight scenes, but there is only one singular character scene with him–where we see him questioning his mission, himself. While the movie leaves the door open to more work towards resolution with this storyline, I would have liked to see more scenes where he was the focus, instead of him as the foil to Steve–the dark to his light.
This movie contains grand set pieces, and multiple large sprawling fights within Washington DC. Despite Steve’s super-human abilities, we never feel that the fights are completely easy for him. There is a kenetic force within each, propelling the movie (and us) forward. The fights between Steve and the Winter Soldier are probably the best, pitting two equally matched men against one another. Without giving anything away, their final fight is one of the more emotional fights I have seen. The movie also has a solid heart, and is not afraid to have the characters talk about their lives, giving them time to breathe and learn about one another, in ways we did not get to during The Avengers.
While we see no other Avengers within this film, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) does make an appearance halfway through the film, and while does not do a great deal, definitely is a nice addition. Robert Redford also has a great showing as Alexander Pierce, exuding charm and a cool confidence, an excellent foil to the more gruff Nick Fury.
While not a perfect film, I truly can’t recommend this movie enough. I felt it was, as a whole, much more enjoyable than the first Captain America film, and definitely worth the full price of admission. It is a fitting addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and makes me excited for Avengers 2.