Part 9 of A List to Marvel At
The Russo Brother’s follow up movie to the much remembered classic You, Me and Dupree, Captain America: The Winter Soldier works on a simple genre gimmick; take the beacon of the WWII good/evil dichotomy, and place him in a 21st Century spy thriller, with the double crossings and grey moral areas that implies.
The result gives that genre, one whose normal roots are in realism, a mythic weight that only this character can really bring. Hell, hiring Robert Redford as the lead villain, with the baggage he brings with the roles he has played in these spy thrillers, gives that interpretation more weight for cineastes. Even the action scenes themselves, such as the surveillance operation being destroyed by the symbols of its own paranoia and hubris in the final action scene, work beyond just giving us a cathartic action climax. But to be fair that action is pretty well done too, such as the Nick Fury chase scene and the motorway pile up.
All great elements, but the thing that tips the scale to The Winter Solider being my favourite in the MCU so far is the character dynamics, and how it all ties in to our central character. Things such as the simple good guy/bad girl routine with Cap and Black Widow are inspired. You buy Rodgers and the Falcon’s arc friendship in such a short amount of time (“on your left”), bonding over shared military experience and Marvin Gaye records. And the titular Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, make the conflict and antagonist feel more personal (though I do think its odd how little screen time he has for a movie with his name on it).
But my favourite scene between characters is also my favourite scene in the movie (and probably the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe), is one near the beginning between Steve Rodgers and an now aged Peggy Carter. Dementia is an illness that will get me going regardless of what material it is in, but the combination of the Cap’s emotional (and political) anguish, Peggy’s condition and the surreal tragedy of their relationship made me shed a tear or two in the cinema the first time I saw this.
It probably should be more annoying that they still don’t kill off people in these movies, but at least Nick Fury’s fake out ties into and instigates plot. Despite my lack of reservations with that, there are things that keep me from placing this as high as I want to (up there with, say, The Dark Knight or Spiderman 2 in this era of comic book films). Although Toby Jones cameo as the Computer to reveal the big twist embraces comic book material in a way I love, and SHIELD being HYDRA adds more to the spy material as comic allegory theory, it’s kind of lame that the movie makes ALL ills committed over 70 years the work of one unit, gutting government responsibility in the same way that the Iron Man movies did.
Still, even with those issues, I love Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I love Steve Rodgers. If Marvel Studios themselves have done any kind of undercover operation, it is to turn Captain America – at least in public conception – from a little known comic character with a politically loaded name into one of cinema’s most loved heroes around the world. And with their next movie, they would a group of essential unknowns even in comics, and prove they could popularise anything…