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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Captain America: The Winter Soldier

It's Fishing in the Discount Bin time again, as I blog about one of the movies I own.  This time out, we get to the super-awesomeness that is Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  This showed up in my notes at September 14, 2014.

After watching it again on Blu-Ray, I'm going to go ahead and declare Captain America: The Winter Soldier to be the best Marvel movie of the year.  Yeah, Guardians of the Galaxy was great goofy fun, X-Men: Days of Future Past was a fine return to form for X-Men and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was...also a movie.  But Captain America: The Winter Soldier had it all. 

We catch up with Steve Rogers/Captain America in his time since The Avengers.  He's still dealing with the culture shock of being time-shifted from the 1940s to the present day, and for a day job, he decided to join up with SHIELD and become one of their top commandos, leading their elite STRIKE team.  However, since SHIELD is still primarily an espionage organization, Cap frequently gets frustrated with the secrets upon secrets that surround him everyday, which is beginning to lead to a certain degree of disillusionment.  After his recent mission, he confronts Nick Fury about the secrets, so Fury shows Cap a top-secret SHIELD project called "Project Insight," a fleet of three helicarriers designed for the purpose of preemptive strikes.  However, Cap's words hit a nerve with Fury, and Fury tries to delay Project Insight.  Before long, Nick Fury is assassinated, Cap is declared a fugitive, and Cap is on the run as he tries to uncover the conspiracy that reaches deep into SHIELD's core being.

But of course, Cap isn't alone in his mission.  Scarlett Johannson is back Natalia Romanov/the Black Widow, and she is one of the reasons why I like the movie.  This is, hands down, the best Black Widow we've seen on the screen so far.  Let's be honest, when she first showed up in Iron Man 2, it was pretty much just a glorified cameo to start setting up The Avengers.  And in The Avengers, well, in an ensemble like that, she got lost in the shuffle a little bit.  But here in The Winter Soldier, she really gets a chance to shine.  When i first saw the film, I thought that she was being rather annoying, but then she and Cap have this moment where she reveals that in her life of undercover work, her main defense mechanism has become adopting a persona that's appropriate to the situation.  And that's when it occurred to me.  No wonder she's annoying when she's around Cap because the persona she decide to adopt was "annoying sidekick!"  In that scene, Cap then suggests that a friend is the persona he most wants from her, and Black Widow starts letting her guard down a bit.  it's a great scene, great stuff from Scarlett Johannson, and great Black Widow.

But that's not all.  We also get Cap's longtime partner from the 1970s, Sam Wilson/The Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie.  For the movie, Wilson is a former pararescue trooper who now works at the VA hospital, counseling soldiers returning with PTSD.  Cap and Wilson strike up a friendship, as, being a trained counselor and all, Wilson gets some semblance of what Cap's going through in his frustrations with SHIELD.  Oh course, when Cap and Black Widow have no one to turn to, they turn to Wilson, who digs out the old prototype jetpack he used in his army days to help in the fight.  He's just such a cool character, with an easy going charm, and the first time you see him in flight is one of the best "stand up and cheer" moments of the film. 

With all this conspiracy action going on, it almost seems like an afterthought when the Winter Soldier of the title shows up.  The Winter Soldier is the top assassin and operative of the conspiracy, and...SPOILER WARNING...his true identity is Bucky, Captain American's World War II era best friend and sidekick.  Turns out he survived the fall to his death in World War II, and the conspirators have spent the decades operating on him, brainwashing him, and turning him into their own super soldier.  The climactic battle where Cap tries to pull Bucky back from the Dark Side and reawaken his true memories seems almost like an afterthought, but the ending pretty much suggests that'll be the main thrust of the next film. 

And the architect of the conspiracy is Robert Redford.  Let's just take a moment to acknowledge that certifiable acting legend Robert Redford plays the villain in a superhero movie.  A casting coup like that breaks my mind.

About my only real disappointment was how the big plot twist was blown for me on Agents of SHIELD before I had a chance to see the movie in the theatre.  Again, spoiler warning, it turns out that at the close of World War II, several HYDRA scientists (HYDRA being the terrorist organization spun off from the Nazis that Cap was fighting in the first film) were recruited by the US Government to help form SHIELD.  Well, thanks to them, HYDRA  has been rebuilt and has been growing as a shadow organization within SHIELD.  It was a great way to bring back HYDRA, seeing as to how they had seemingly been defeated. 

I don't know what more to say.  It's fun.  It's got a good plot.  No character seems to be left out and has actual arcs and stuff to do.  It's good.

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