THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the newest installment in the ongoing Avengers saga, is a fast-paced and action-packed film that still manages to be thought provoking. A sequel to the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, which was set during World War I, The Winter Soldier takes place during modern day and finds Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, struggling to save a world even more complex and endangered than the one he left. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, head of the superhuman law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and Scarlett Johansson as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Black Widow. Anthony Mackie debuts as Falcon, another hero from the Marvel Universe (Captain America’s sidekick and fellow soldier.)
The movie centers around S.H.I.E.L.D being infiltrated and taken over by Hydra, the evil cult Captain America fought back in the The First Avenger. Bringing back an old enemy was a smart choice on the screenwriter’s part, as it reaffirms that Captain America still has a job to do that only he can pull off, because modern heroes wouldn’t immediately understand the severity of the threat Hydra poses or how best to stop it.
S.H.I.E.L.D. has been planning to launch gigantic airships in the sky capable of killing thousands of insurgents instantly. Hydra takes over S.H.I.E.L.D. with the hope of using these airships to destroy all of their enemies. Captain America and his allies have to stop Hydra from launching these airships, which leads to both a subtle commentary on real-world drone strikes and extremely exciting visual action sequences.
The titular Winter Soldier is a mysterious villain working for Hydra who has a metal arm and proves to be one of the few people alive capable of matching Captain America in a fistfight. The reveal of the Winter Soldier’s identity, while not particularly surprising (especially for people familiar with the comics) is still heart-wrenching and adds another layer of clever suspense to the film.
If you plan to see it, be advised that this movie has not one, but two scenes after the end of the credits. I saw the first scene but missed the second, and had to find it online instead. These scenes are not at all necessary to view, but they’re interesting nonetheless, and provide a small glimpse into the film’s future sequels.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier earned 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, a full 10% higher than its predecessor, and 24% higher than Thor: The Dark World, another Avenger’s sequel. It is a shining addition to the Avengers saga and a cleverly enjoyable film from start to finish. The stars and stripes never looked so good.