Film Review: The Winter Soldier: More than Just a Sequel


Note: this article was also published on

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (based on the comics by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby); directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo. Produced by Marvel Studios. Copyright 2014. (Seen April 2, 2014.)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is being touted as the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. However, on the surface, there’s not a lot it has in common with it’s predecessor – and that’s exactly what makes the movie work.

Taking two years after the events of The Avengers, we encounter Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) as he struggles with the dichotomy of living in two worlds. He’s got a 1940s mindset struggling to adapt to today’s world, and the movie does a great job of showing that Rogers has one hell of a case of PTSD: not just from the battles fought in The First Avenger, but also in the very idea of being out of time. He’s struggling with his place in this world, and the realization that nothing is as black and white as it was when he was busy fighting Nazis.

The plot starts off fast, an assignment to save a ship from Algerian pirates leads to the realization that not all is clear as to what S.H.I.E.L.D. is up to, as the Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) is retrieving information the pirates have on S.H.I.E.L.D. But when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) attempts to read said information, it starts a series of events that leads to both Fury and Rogers being attacked by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (but are they?), and Rogers and Romanov on the run. They are joined by Sam Wilson, who ends up taking on the role of The Falcon.

In the meantime, the group starts to talk about someone only known as The Winter Soldier, a deadly operative that has a metal arm and seems to be as strong as Rogers. Interspersed with this plot, senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is presenting Project Insight, the idea of three helicarriers linked to spy satellites in order to eliminate prospective threats to peace. There are twists along the way (one fairly predictable to me, although the audience at the screening I was at gasped in shock when it was revealed) as Rogers, Wilson, and Romanov investigate what is going on, and the end is about Rogers finally coming to terms with his place in this world.

So we’re going to do what again? Photo courtesy Marvel Studios.

While The First Avenger was more like the World War II action movies of the past, The Winter Soldier is more like a spy thriller along the lines of Mission: Impossible. The theme plays with the same issues seen in Watchmen of how much freedom the human race is willing to give up in order to feel secure. Compelling and tense, there’s still enough humorous moments to keep the pace smooth.

The action sequences, unfortunately, follow the modern day style of quick cuts that are too close to really see the beauty of the fight choreography or stunt work. There’s also the hint of a romance between Rogers and Romanov (thanks to their great on screen chemistry) which thankfully never reaches fruition, as it’s frustrating to me when the only leading women in a superhero movie tend to be romantic interests. There was also one or two choices that made me cringe (you can’t just take off the jacket?).

However, on the whole, The Winter Soldier – while dealing with the events in The First Avenger – is less of a sequel and more like another movie in the Marvel cinematic universe that just happens to have Captain America as its lead. In other words, it does a good job of holding its own as a movie in and of itself, while still maintaining ties to the rest of the movies Marvel has made.

The Winter Soldier is all about trying to find your place in your world. Thankfully, it knows it’s place and does a fine job if fitting in to the Marvel universe. Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens April 4 nationwide.