Captain America: Winter Soldier begins unpredictably, not with an action sequence, but with a picturesque jog through Washington D.C. This is a beautiful moment, before the chaos of the superherodom begins. The Russo Brothers capture The Lincoln Memorial just as the sun is rising. It also wonderfully sets the stage for the plot to come. Cap passes Sam Wilson repeatedly nonchalantly saying “on your left” as he whizzes by at superhuman speed. After the jog the two men catch up with each other. Sam and Cap, though possessing an enormous age difference find commonalities in the dissolution they share with the modern world, both having spent years away from home serving their country. Though this is minor, easily forgettable scene, it sets up a theme that runs throughout the entire movie. In everything he does, Steve Rogers is still dealing with a world that has progressed 70 years without him. Accordingly he comes at each obstacle with the purity of a 1940s patriot. When Black Widow — who plays the worldly cynic in this case, steals a car, Cap corrects her, stating that it is just being borrowed.
The Russo Brothers demonstrate in this film that despite their considerably minimal filmography, they are masters of shooting action. The fight scenes in this movie are vivid and intense, combining quick cuts, and wide shots bringing strength to each sequence, but still allowing the viewer to relish the excellent choreography. Cap’s first encounter with the Winter Soldier is one of the most sharply shot instances the MCU has ever produced. The confrontation takes place on a highway, with the combatants moving cautiously through a field of abandoned cars. Even the viewer is nervous, and this feeling is intensified by the effective use of handheld camera. The bullets that fly suggest a transcendent danger as they whiz by, these heroes aren’t known for their expendability, but one half expects a stray shot to take them down. Cap rushes at the Winter Soldier with breakneck speed. The two clash, equals, giving the fight everything they have. Winter Soldier produces a knife, twirling it about with dizzying deftness, and cap barely counters each stroke.
This film also features the welcome presence of Robert Redford, who plays a government higher-up turned Hydra exec. His character is extremely compelling, not just because of Redford’s world-class acting, but because of the way he is written. Evil as his plans are, in a twisted way, we see how he truly believes that he is doing the right thing, and his invasive Shield initiatives echo the familiar NSA activity that caused so much uproar in 2014.
The climax is probably its most typical portion — the gang must take down three hijacked helicarriers, destructive explosions abound — and yet, it is a rarity. Falcon’s wingsuit provides entertaining arial action, and we see Cap doing what he does best; beating up nazis. The battle evolves into a one-on-one between Cap and Winter Soldier. This time, he knows that it is his friend he is pitted against, and Chris Evans expertly shows the emotions tearing his character up from the inside. The movie ends as ecplosively as it does thrillingly.
Captain America: Winter Soldier is my favorite Marvel movie. It is, in essence, anything one could really want out of a superhero movie. It derives levity from the rapport built up between Black Widow and Captain America; It provides excellent action laced with tension throughout; and most importantly it provides extremely poignant political commentary that adds to the plot without seeming preachy or self-righteous. Captain America: Winter Soldier is the gold standard up to which all other superhero movies should be held.