Shalom Life | June 06, 2014

REVIEW: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The 'Captain America' sequel is stronger, more poignant, and far cooler than it's predecessor.

By: Jake Horowitz

Published: April 4th, 2014 in Culture » Film » Reviews

If you’re a reader of my movie and television reviews here on ShalomLife you’ll probably have noticed a familiar trend by now. I start each review with a generalization on the current state of the industry, talk about how the genre of this particular property has fared recently, and explain why X movie/TV show is or isn’t different. Noah challenges the Hollywood blockbuster, The Lego Movie redefines animated films, House of Cards Season 2 perfects the concept of binge watching. Same old same old. But for this week’s review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I’m not going to do any of that. I’m just going to tell you straight up that this is a really cool movie, it’s really well-made, and it’s a really fun time. You should go see it, and here’s why.

I was not a fan of the first Captain America movie. It had its strengths, including a unique setting for a superhero film and strong performances, but overall it seemed like a hard push in introducing the last piece of the puzzle of the then unproven concept of the Marvel Universe. It was basically a glorified trailer for what eventually became the third highest grossing film of all time; The Avengers.

But in a post-Avengers world, where Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World have each been met with their share of lukewarm critical appeal – including many supporters and some very vocal detractors – Captain America: The Winter Soldier had the hardest road ahead of it. Take a character with no flaws, send him out in the modern world with no other Avengers (save for Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow), and make something interesting happen. It shouldn’t have worked, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo managed to take Captain America and throw him in the middle of one of the best superhero films of the past decade.

The Winter Soldier is, above everything, an old-school spy thriller. After being drained by superhero film after superhero film, the Russo brothers smartly decided to pare down the conventions of a modern day superhero blockbuster and give audiences something more reminiscent of an old James Bond movie. Or more accurately, the newest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Shield has been compromised and Captain America must re-evaluate the nature of a covert intelligence division in today’s modern world. Coming from the 20th century himself, Cap uses his own ideals of right and wrong in order to take down those hunting him and, you know, save the world. Since this is still a Marvel movie, it does have its share of buildings exploding and downtown cores being destroyed, but those scenes are a necessary evil in a movie that is ultimately more timely and true to real-world issues than any other PG-13 film about a 95 year old man with a shield has ever been.

Peppered in with the unbelievably exhilarating action sequences and scenes of relentless face-punching is a plot that deals with 21st century world policing and surveillance; an issue that someone like Captain America, who fights for freedom, would have a strong opinion against. It’s with this plot that very real concerns are addressed and explored in a way that is thankfully more clear and palpable than any other superhero film in recent memory. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, gone is the villain who wants to destroy the world because someone made him feel bad once, and replacing him is a shady organization that thinks they’re doing the right thing; albeit in all the wrong ways.

But if you’re someone who was going to see this film regardless of how well they handle 21st century politics, you’re going to want to know how cool it was. And like I said up top, it’s very cool. Joe and Anthony Russo, who have mainly directed television comedies, do an incredible job here making every action scene exciting and inventive. Every action is choreographed beautifully, and with a great mix of CGI and practical effects, Captain America’s powers are demonstrated better than they ever have been before. Not to mention that any time he uses his shield you can’t help but think that whoever came up with the list of “Ways to Bash People with a Rebounding Shield” deserves a huge raise.

Other than the plot and the action sequences, what makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier a great film is the little things. The humor, having been helmed by the Russo’s – who have done TV’s Arrested Development, Community, and Happy Endings – is considerably funny and makes what could have been a merely enjoyable film one that is quotable and memorable as well. The tie ins to the general Marvel Universe are well done and set a nice stage for films such as next year’s Avengers sequel. And finally, though Captain America’s name is in the title, Black Widow gets more than her fair share of screen time and thoroughly entertains with her bad-assery. Which is always a nice touch.

In the end, Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeds because of its willingness to throw out the conventions of a superhero film and focus on the real world. Sure, this is the same universe that had Manhattan levelled by aliens and saved by a Hulk, but realism and parallels to a recognizable world are what make this film rise above its predecessors. There’s no more red faced Nazi monsters with blue light guns here, and that’s why it works so well. This is just a well-told tale of Captain America and friends bashing evil in the face with a shield, doing flips, and looking really cool in the process. And that’s the kind of superhero movie that deserves to be made.

Breakthrough Jew - Ansel Elgort Trending Ashley Tisdale Pledges to Complete 22-Day Vegan Challenge TrendingHere’s Your Chance to Meet Adam Lambert Here’s Your Chance to Meet Adam Lambert Trending
 

Beastie Boys Win $1.7 Million Copyright Lawsuit Against Monster Beverage

June 06, 2014 | By Sarah Bauder

The lawsuit centered on an online promotional video posted to the comany's site in 2012.

Read More

The Top 10 Israeli Foods

June 06, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau
The Top 10 Israeli Foods

From shawarma to hummus, Israeli foods are a staple in Mediterranean cuisine

Read More

Some Cheesy News: Israeli and Amish Cheese-Masters Create New Feta

June 06, 2014 | By Emma Mazerall
Some Cheesy News: Israeli and Amish Cheese-Masters Create New Feta

Israel's Gad Dairy makes unlikely partnership with Amish Bunker Hill Cheese to bring kosher feta to America.

Read More

Jewish World Cup Fans Can Keep Kosher in Brazil

June 06, 2014 | By Emma Mazerall
Jewish World Cup Fans Can Keep Kosher in Brazil

Ahead of this summer's World Cup, one Jewish family in Brazil is making sure visiting fans can keep kosher and find religious services.

Read More

An Exclusive Interview with Former Megadeth Guitarist Marty Friedman

June 06, 2014 | By Peter Herriman

"Performing in a Jewish state is exactly the same as anywhere else, except all the longhaired heavy metal kids are named Shlomo Goldstein and Irving Cohen. It always cracks me up, I love it."

Read More

Looking To Organize Your Life? Barbara Reichs Can Help

June 06, 2014 | By Caitlin Marceau

Shalom Life speaks to the professional organizer who tackles everything from playrooms to overnight bags

Read More

Breakthrough Jew - Ansel Elgort

June 05, 2014 | By Sarah Bauder
Breakthrough Jew - Ansel Elgort

Elgort is the star of the highly-anticipated film adaptation of 'Fault in Our Stars'

Read More

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With “Canada’s Next Top Crooner” Ori Dagan

June 05, 2014 | By Ashley Baylen
EXCLUSIVE: Interview With “Canada’s Next Top Crooner” Ori Dagan

Shalom Life speaks with Dagan in advance of the Toronto Jazz Festival

Read More

More Headlines