Better late than never, we finally watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier. As the second of the Captain America series, the film had much to live up to. Luckily, our viewing of it was positively colored by a review from Linda Holmes on the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. On that show, Holmes situated the film in the tradition of 1970’s spy thrillers, films like The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor. Through that lens, the filmmakers’s choices all made sense; whereas, if we had directly compared it to the tone and look of the original film, we likely would have been perplexed at the differences.
Captain America (the original) is largely couched in the retro look of the 1940’s, the Captain’s origins, and Nazis via Hydra. Steve Rodgers, aka Captain America, gets frozen for 70 years and wakes up in the current day, an icon of a by-gone era and missing contemporary cultural knowledge or an understanding of the speed and tech of today’s world. So it makes some sense to advance the films in time. In fact, it strikes me as an extremely clever way to add novelty to the new film while delivering on the aspects that make the Captain a favorite of so many and also giving the film a unique flavor within an ever increasing Marvel-Avengers film collection.
The film is tonally gray, a step away from the retro-brown and red, white, and blue of the original film. The choice of gray–gray skies, gray steel architecture, gray urban streets–accentuates the gray morality of the characters Rodgers must navigate and evaluate. Every character who once had clear alligiances, including Nick Fury and Black Widow, are now suspect.
This Captain America is a cloak-and-dagger spy thriller in the wrappings of a mask-and-cape superhero spectacle. The big, impressive set pieces of heroics and villainy, superpowers and supertech are all here. The choreography of fights is engaging and thrilling, and each fight builds in intensity and destructiveness. But the heart of the film is in the smaller scenes of characters revealing truths to each other. Amid the greater organizations of lies, these revealed truths are shown as the ultimate form of vulnerability, even for a sincere and earnest man such as Steve Rogers.
The style and sensibility of Winter Soldier puts it in the top few Marvel films released. I highly recommend it.
Fun Easter Egg: On Nick Fury’s tombstone is carved the beginning of the Ezekiel verse of the Bible that Samuel L. Jackson repeatedly recites as Jules in Pulp Fiction.