Captain America: The Winter Soldier ★★★★★

“Every week some punk would say, ‘What’s in the bag?’”
“Well, what did he do?”
“He’d show them. A bunch of crumpled ones and loaded 0.22 Magnum.”

In my review for Avengers: Age of Ultron, I posited that that particular entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe was unabashedly my favourite. I still agree with myself, and probably always will, but let me clarify right here that that is not an objective opinion. As objectively as I can critique anything, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is by far the best film in the MCU.

As an Australian kid, there was very little that I found appealing or endearing about Steve Rogers as a character. I mean, why should I care what adventures Captain America is going on? Why would I give a shit what he has to say? He is never speaking to me. 2014 changed that forever though because, with this film and this film alone, I finally understood Captain America.

A big part of that is Chris Evans who has proven truly by now that he is as perfect casting as one could imagine for this character but it is in the writing that my mind was fully blown. Steve is such a fascinating superhero. His ideals are uncompromising; he is the truest definition of a moralist. He is as idealistic a character as Superman but refuses to change like Batman and I love characters who refuse character arcs.
Steve operates in black and white, as one would expect from a 1940s soldier and dragging him just out of the light into the shades of grey and shadows of contemporary espionage was an ingenious decision.

The Winter Soldier is a spy film and a really good one at that. It baffles me to no end that this story is credited to the same duo responsible for Thor: The Dark World since that film had such a lack of appreciation for the styles and influences it attempted to emulate. Maybe that team just did not get high-concept fantasy in the way this one understands 1970s espionage fiction. Even Robert Redford is here to lend full credibility to the piece.

The Russo Brothers delivered exceptional work here. The action is directed the best I have ever seen in any MCU film, the story is watertight and the ideas are endlessly fascinating. I could write a paper on what I think about Project: Insight and the dichotomy of Steve and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s viewpoints but this review is already long enough without me doing a full deep dive. Hell, I feel like this review is barely saying anything interesting at all and it is still too long.

Another aspect of the film I adore is the score by Henry Jackman. I want to give a particular shout-out to the theme for the Winter Soldier himself which is partially arranged from pitch-modulated, real human screams. It is utterly chilling and extremely effective.

Like The Dark Knight, The Winter Soldier proves that you can craft a compelling sequel that stands entirely on its own from its predecessor. Part of what makes this such an enjoyable watch compared to other MCU efforts is the complete lack of context required to enjoy it. Sure, the first film and Avengers inform it but they are in no way necessary. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is one of the best comic book adaptations ever and an essential watch for any lover of genre fiction and political thrillers.

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