Captain America: The Winter Soldier
A sophisticated spy thriller masquerading as a genre film.
Well written, well crafted, it exceeds the first in many ways, with great character exploration and fantastic action.
A stunner; a solo film on the level of AVENGERS. Character, complexity, commentary.
It expanded on everything that made Steve Rogers my favorite hero.
By Tym Stevens
Who is really the Winter Soldier in this film?
In the early ’60s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby roused Marvel Comics’ success from the hibernation of Timely and Atlas. In a new era with their new heroes, these wizened veterans surprisingly brought back Captain America, literally from the deep freeze of an iceberg, in 1964 to bridge the two decades. The move, like DC with the Justice League and the Justice Society, tied the ’40s and ’60s together in a generational handoff that now gave comics a sense of legacy and maturation.
But Cap would now always be a man out of time, an outside observer, always in personal transition and inner reflection. In this superior second film, Cap is defrosted into the present world of paranoia and intrigue. His mirror nemesis, the Winter Soldier, is a war tool without conscience thawed out at various times for cold war games. Similarly, Cap’s handlers mistake him as a oversimplified throwback to be used in the moment. But in truth, Cap has the wisdom of perspective, like autumn remembering spring, and knows what his country is losing compared to what it once was. His conscience sees through everyone, and he realizes he is not his country or its flighty politics, he is its ideals.
Cap is the moral center of Marvel; like Superman, he is the one who paved the ensuing heroic journey, and he returns to keep it on course. As the turmoil of the ’60s reached critical mass in the early ’70s, Cap’s stories reflected the turning tides. President Nixon had used euphemisms like “Law and Order” to crack down on democratic dissent, but by 1974 he was exposed to be a crook; the demonized counterculture turned out to be right, and the status quo was corrupt. This profound crisis in national faith inspired political thrillers like The Parallax View (1974), All The President’s Men (1976), and Three Days Of The Condor (1976) [all of which inspired this film and the presence of Robert Redford]. In 1974, Captain America had such a similar crisis of faith that he gave up the identity, becoming Nomad—"a man without a country"—for a time. Like the nation, Cap had to reexamine what he stood for and how he could go forward. But, as this fine film proves in touchpointing all these famous transitions, this is someone who will not be polarized for long.
Captain America is the spy who came in from the cold, with a heart full of fire.