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Movie review: ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ is a superheroespionage thriller

It’s hard not to talk about this movie without geeking out. So I won’t even try. While the film can stand on its own, it rewards anyone who has been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even further, it rewards Marvel fans who have gone deep into the comics, providing what one hopes for most in a film adaptation.

It takes from some of the best comics that have been written recently about the character. In the last decade Captain America as a character was revitalized by writer Ed Brubaker (along with a number of artists, most notably Steve Epting). Drawing not only title but also a lot of themes and ideas from Brubaker’s work, we get a Captain America that not only deals with big bad villains, but also takes a look at contemporary espionage, ubiquitous surveillance, and the question of security and order in an increasingly technologically connected world. It also draws on a less popular but also amazing title—"Secret Warriors" penned by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman. If you enjoyed the Winter Soldier movie, you will probably want to pick this up.
So Winter Soldier takes from some outstanding comics works. But it doesn’t attempt to just do whatever was in the comics and put it on the screen. While this approach might work in a limited capacity, like in something like "300," it doesn’t. Nor does it attempt to jam all kinds of stuff into the movie unnecessarily like "Green Lantern." Rather, the approach of this film was to take the elements of those stories and find out how they could be adapted to make an exciting film.

Now this movie isn’t perfect. In fact the first few minutes of it feel like they could have been improved for tone and timing. In particular, there were a number of lines that were clunkers, badly failing at jokes because of how poorly written they were. I worried that the bad dialogue at the onset would bode badly for the film. But once you get through that and start to get into the meat of the film, then it becomes an adrenaline rush.

I can’t really say much without wading into spoiler territory. But suffice to say that Captain America, since being defrosted and helping save the world alongside the rest of the Avengers, has been working as a SHIELD agent. He has been going on ops and as far as he knows, serving his country. He has qualms about serving SHIELD, especially because he senses how much Nick Fury isn’t telling him and how many secrets are being kept. Through the course of the film these secrets come to light—changing everything for Nick Fury, SHIELD, and Cap.

One of these secrets turns out to be Winter Soldier. He is something from Cap’s past, and I think that because they have similar general circumstances these two could have worked really well as thematic foils. That could have been established better, but hey, how can I complain? Instead of that being shown better we got to see a bunch of amazing action sequences featuring Winter Soldier.
A new addition to the cast is Anthony Mackie’s Falcon. I admire Marvel in that it takes a character who, when you look at him in the comics from before, just looks like we should laugh at him and his costume design. He gets the Marvel Cinematic makeover here, and he looks incredibly cool. His action sequences, especially his flight scenes, look great. And even when he’s on the ground, Mackie delivers some really funny zingers giving the film a little levity amidst all of the cloak and dagger action.

As secrets are revealed and alliance lines are drawn, the action escalates. And what amazing action it is. I found myself at the onset feeling very annoyed by the shaky cam action that is employed in early hand-to-hand combat sequences. The movie unfortunately never gives up on shaky cam and tight shots. Still, it amps up the intensity, knowing when to pull back and when to bring it in to enhance the impact.

One thing that’s amazing in this film is how it not only displays Cap’s strength and speed, but his agility. His fluid movement, coupled with the ingenious use of his shield, makes for some eye-popping sequences. The opening sequence where Cap boards a ship and races across the deck taking out enemies establishes this great movement. As the movie progresses and the action escalates we get even bigger and more exciting action scenes.

The movie attempts at an espionage-thriller. One wonders if Robert Redford’s casting was in homage to things like "Three Days of the Condor" when he was making such films. Or it was just a chance to get another amazing actor into the Marvel Universe? Either way, we get that thriller that the filmmakers were going for. There’s a lot of intrigue, a lot of spy vs. spy. None of it is particularly deep or demanding in its reveals, but all of it leads to big action as well as strong thematic movements.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" works not just as a superhero movie, but as an espionage thriller that has elements of the Marvel superhero universe. It provides a compelling story where so much happens. There are great visuals particularly in some amazing action sequences.

So, I’m not even going to tell you to go out and watch this movie. What I’ll say is, for those people who leave when the credits start to roll, haven’t you guys learned by now? Stay ’til the credits are over. — GMA News

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' opened in local theaters on March 26. All photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

About Erick Abel

Erick Abel
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