Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Chris Evans takes on the national-security state.

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Marvel

Having weathered a 70-year ice nap and then the big Chitauri war in The Avengers two years ago, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), the shield-wielding Captain America, is back in Washington, D.C., on-call for whatever's going to happen next. As you can imagine, it happens pretty fast.

The first Captain America movie had classic comic-book trappings—an otherworldly Tesseract, a hyper-Nazi madman called the Red Skull. The Winter Soldier brings Rogers completely into the present day, and you can guess how he might feel about the current wave of rampaging statism—the domestic data mining, the government drones, the metastasizing claims of national security. The Captain has an uncomplicated retro-patriotism—he's a World War II throwback with a simple devotion to his country, not to one or another faction of the political clown corps that's wrecking it. So he's an ideal man to have around not only when bad guys need taking down, but when the good guys suddenly seem to have gone bad themselves.

The bad guys here at first seem to be a crew of Algerian sky pirates (just go with it) who've hijacked an airship belonging to S.H.I.E.L.D., the elite government espionage outfit run by one-eyed Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Rogers is re-teamed with fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), the Black Widow, to re-take the stolen vessel and to retrieve some highly classified S.H.I.E.L.D. intelligence plans stored onboard. After a burst of epic butt-kicking, they subdue the pirates; but the intel, when returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters in a flash drive, turns out to be so ultra-hush that not even Fury can access it.

This is very suspicious ("Trust no one," Fury says), especially in view of an expansive new national-surveillance program that's about to be launched. It's called Project Insight, and it involves the deployment of three huge helicarriers that will patrol the country from above, sucking up personal data about unwitting citizens and identifying "threats" before they've actually threatened anyone. The carriers are equipped with formidable weaponry that, as Fury explains to Rogers, can wipe out a thousand miscreants per minute—all in the name of safeguarding a free America. Rogers is appalled. "This isn't freedom," he says. "This is fear."

The only person capable of delaying Project Insight is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), head of the World Security Council (uh oh) and one of Fury's oldest friends. Pierce is uninclined to postpone the project's inception, however, and soon Fury is running for his life, pursued by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a mysterious cyber-warrior with a metal arm who has been offing important people for the last 50 years. (Comics adepts will already be aware who this character really is; moviegoers will learn soon enough.)

The script, by returning screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, sets up plenty of action, and new directors Joe and Anthony Russo stage it with an emphasis on rousing stuntwork, along with the usual digital spectacle. There's a wall-slamming confrontation in a cramped elevator and a long freeway destruct-a-thon that's pretty wild even by the long-established standards of the movie car-chase. Also on hand is Rogers' new buddy Sam Wilson (MVP Anthony Mackie), an ex-vet code-named the Falcon, who cruises through the action on rocket-powered wings.

The movie has more of an emotional kick than the first film, too. Natasha is increasingly burdened by her violent backstory, which began in the bad old KGB days. Rogers still mourns the loss of a lifelong friend in the long-ago war; and in the movie's most moving interlude, he pays a visit to a nursing home to see his '40s girlfriend, the now elderly Peggy Carter (a touching cameo by a convincingly aged Hayley Atwell).

If Winter Soldier pales a bit in comparison to the first Captain America film, that may be due to the colorless quality of its designated villains. As the star of such '70s classics as Three Days of the Condor and All the President's Men, Redford of course brings considerable paranoid-thriller cred to the role of a devious one-world bureaucrat. But in terms of pure-pulp evil, his Alexander Pierce is no match for Hugo Weaving's raving Red Skull. And despite his deadly cyber arm, the grim Winter Soldier is a little drab as well.

Still, it's fun to once again watch Captain America taking on America's enemies, however earthbound they may be this time. "The price of freedom is always high," he says, "but it's a price I'm willing to pay." No charge, Captain.

NEXT: Friday Funnies: That Obamacare 'Deadline'

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  1. it involves the deployment of three huge helicarriers that will patrol the country from above, sucking up personal data about unwitting citizens and identifying “threats” before they’ve actually threatened anyone. The carriers are equipped with formidable weaponry that, as Fury explains to Rogers, can wipe out a thousand miscreants per minute

    Little did they know that the difference from real life is only of quantity, not quality.

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  2. Natasha is increasingly burdened by her violent backstory, which began in the bad old KGB days

    Having a tough time suspending disbelief on this one since SJ was pre-pubescent when the KGB folded up. Oh well, I’ll catch the matinee…

    1. They started ’em young in Soviet Russia?

    2. In the comics continuity, the widow experiences slowed aging (she’s around 80, looks 25-30) due to her getting a Soviet version of the serum that made Captain America. Same with the Winter Soldier, who has been around since WWII.

    3. I’m pretty sure they just changed their letterhead in 1989.

  3. It’s called Project Insight, and it involves the deployment of three huge helicarriers that will patrol the country from above, sucking up personal data about unwitting citizens and identifying “threats” before they’ve actually threatened anyone. The carriers are equipped with formidable weaponry that, as Fury explains to Rogers, can wipe out a thousand miscreants per minute?all in the name of safeguarding a free America.

    It’s actually not that far off from what we have in the real world. Sure, there’s no heavily armed helicarriers sucking up data, but there are armed predator drones, a disposition matrix, aka kill list, and the legal framework that grants the president the authority to order the deaths of anyone deemed a threat, anywhere, and of course the NSA programs spying on everyone. It’s close enough to the scenario in the movie to draw obvious parallels.

    Rogers is appalled. “This isn’t freedom,” he says. “This is fear.”

    It’s going to be awesome to actually see someone in a major Hollywood movie make this statement. I’ll have to try not to clap and chear when I see the movie in the theater.

    1. Sure, there’s no heavily armed helicarriers sucking up data

      Are you sure?

      *Glances nervously at the sky*

    2. Makes me think of the Iron Man 2 scene in Congress; one of my all time favorites.

      1. Iron Man 2 was basically the Atlas Shrugged movie adaptation that didn’t suck balls.

      2. I think the libertarian ideas expressed in IM2 are one of the great pop culture examples of said. That Gary Shandling’s sick senator turns out ****SPOILERS**** to be a Hydra agent in CA2 is no mistake. Marvel Studios seems to have a liberty bent to their story telling.

  4. If Winter Soldier pales a bit in comparison to the first Captain America film, that may be due to the colorless quality of its designated villains.

    Oh yeah, it’s TERRIBLE when films address the grey vs. grey forms of evil that we actually face in the real world instead of the black and white cartoon villains that could never actually occur. Damn you movie for trying to make Kurt Loder think! Don’t you know he only wants senseless explosions?!

    1. I would 100% agree with this if I hadn’t felt bludgeoned at every turn by it. Black and grey suits, black and grey cars, black and grey wings, black and grey helicarriers slamming into grey buildings…

      Even Captain America, who’s supposed to be the bastion of conventional altruistic patriotism and standing against modern ‘grey hats’ and ‘black hats’ has had his *costume and shield* largely de-hued (despite his R-W-B theme being completely ‘functional’ through two previous movies).

      1. I suppose you’re pissed that Thor didn’t have that giant miter hat with the wings on it too. Part of the reality of converting comic book heroes to movies is that there are thing you can do in comic books that end up looking ridiculous if you try to do them in live action.

        While Captain America’s high saturation red, white, and blue costume works fine in some circumstances, it would have looked like a clown suit in a somber movie like this.

        1. I suppose you’re pissed that Thor didn’t have that giant miter hat with the wings on it too.

          Not at all. Lord knows I’m not asking for another Iron Patriot, just that Captain America not be turned into War Machine.

          They pulled off the red-white-and-blue against a background of sepia in the first film. Now, when Captain America should be distinguished and setting himself apart from the grey hat good guys as well as the black hat bad guys he switches to his ‘Captain Air Force’ uniform.

          Unless the idea is to really lay dreams to rest and push back against the folly of comic book idealism; it’s an American movie based on a American comic book, there’s going to be some, however modest, distinguishing iconography. Otherwise, you might as well have Ethan Hunt playing the part of Steve Rogers.

      2. Gotta remember that they’re selling this product to more than just comic book aficionados. The money is in broader appeal, and while they’re steadily getting audiences used to the “excesses” typical in comics, average action film moviegoers aren’t as all-in as fanbois are.

        1. I don’t think it’s just being a fan. Part of it is the nature of the medium. There’s a sort of uncanny valley type effect where things that look realistic in drawings don’t look realistic in live action.

          This is part of what killed the Green Lantern movie: they made the ring effects too much like the comics, and while they look okay in drawn form, in a live action movie they ended up looking like something from a Tex Avery cartoon.

    2. I believe Kurt was referencing the fact that the villains are sort of boring with no real perceived passion driving their thirst for domination/destruction (one of them actually being a memory-free blank slate). Make no mistake, the villains in Cap 2 are anything but subtle.

  5. It can’t be worse than the first CA.

  6. I liked Peter Fonda as Captain America.

  7. Haven’t read the Winter Soldier comics, but they violate one of the few Iron laws of superhero comics:

    [Rot-13]
    Ab bar fgnlf qrnq rkprcg Ohpxl, Wnfba Gbqq naq Hapyr Ora.
    [/Rot-13]

    Cap wore the bright RW&B in the bond rally skits, but Simon & Kirby never put the stripes on the back of the costume. BTW, Irv Novick’s The Shield pre-dated ol’ Winghead.

    Kevin R

    onetime RFO

  8. you may think Chris Evans is so cool ,that’s right. he is famous for Captain America which is an action movie .and also The Winter Soldier will soon come you will not miss it

  9. Chris Evans has played the role Steve Rogers in the movie Captain America films . lately ,Captain America: The Winter Soldier will come up next year .and you will not miss it

  10. Chris Evans has played the role Steve Rogers in the movie Captain America films . lately ,Captain America: The Winter Soldier will come up next year .and you will not miss it

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