Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo
As Steve Rogers struggles to embrace his role in the modern world, he teams up with a fellow Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent, Black Widow, to battle a new threat from history: an assassin known as the Winter Soldier. (Source: IMDb)
At the time, the impact of the Russo brothers first directorial offering in the MCU was as yet unknown. However, fast-forward to now and as it stands the Russo’s have directed more films in the MCU than any other returning director, later helming Civil War, Infinity War and of course Endgame. Clearly Marvel Studios trust these huge films in their hands and they have proved to be more than trustworthy in handling some of the biggest game-changing moments in the whole of the MCU.
On the surface, The Winter Soldier is an old-fashioned espionage thriller, which is perfectly in-keeping with Steve Roger’s narrative. But as the film progresses, it delivers shocks and surprises that unravel the whole of the Marvel Universe as we know it…and it forced the writers of television series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to rethink everything!
As an entity, The Winter Soldier is easily the best film in the MCU, and I say this having watched everything up until Endgame at the time of writing this, and even without having seen that, it will still be very, very hard for a film to top The Winter Soldier for me. It feels so complete and from beginning to end is entertaining, thrilling, and everything you would want a superhero solo offering to be. Unlike Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World, it feels wholly and completely part of the universe, acknowledging what has happened previously, working on it’s own as a spy thriller, and shaping the rest of the films that will follow it. It’s no wonder the Russo brothers returned multiple times to the MCU. They clearly understand the bigger picture, and aesthetically, their films have been some of the most unforgettable as well.
The hand-to-hand combat scenes in The Winter Soldier are absolutely second to none, and it is great to see Cap handling some real-world threats as opposed to kicking alien butt in The Avengers. It feels much more like “his” territory and this gives ample opportunities for character development as well. There are some truly heartbreaking scenes with his former sweetheart Peggy, and of course when the big reveal comes about his best pal Bucky – now the “Winter Soldier” of the title – we experience this impact through him and it creates so much depth for the character. From the moment that is revealed, Steve is a person who is torn. Torn between the love he has for his best friend, and torn between his duty to serve and protect. The man in front of him is no longer the man he knew, and watching this anguish is devastating. We as the audience also become torn, this character is no longer just the faceless assassin, but someone we know and care about as well.
The shocks and surprises don’t end there however, as the film slowly unravels that HYDRA, the rogue Nazi science division that Cap dealt with in the war years, have been slowly building beneath the surface of S.H.I.E.L.D. It is an astonishing turn of events as we’re not sure who to trust or what the future holds either. There’s also some surprising parallels, with HYDRA’s plan to select and eliminate mass numbers of the population feeling chillingly similar to Thanos’ plan, albeit executed in a way which feels a lot more “real-world”. It’s clever foreshadowing on the Russo’s part, and indeed only cements further that in some subtle ways, all of these films form small parts of the overall story which has a feeling of inevitability to it. Whether by HYDRA or a Mad Titan from space, the eradication of huge numbers of the population was always going to happen in some form or another. It’s no wonder the Russo brothers were brought back for more!
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – ★★★★★
- The Avengers (2012) – ★★★★½
- Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – ★★★★
- Iron Man (2008) – ★★★★
- Thor (2011) – ★★★★
- Iron Man 3 (2013) – ★★★
- Thor: The Dark World (2013) – ★★½
- Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★★½
- The Incredible Hulk (2008) – ★★