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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Marvel Studios
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/9/2014

All Ratings out of


Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/24/2014

One of the most difficult things to find in this world is consistency. It's true that nobody is perfect, but we would like to see quality in things over a period of time. However, ups and downs are seemingly inevitable, and sooner or later, most things let us down. That's why it's fairly shocking that Marvel Studios has been able to make so many impressive movies. Sure, Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World weren't perfect, but they still had great production values and tried to do something different. (Having Mickey Rourke and a bird as the villain is certainly different.) The fact that these films fit together, sharing characters and themes, only makes them more appealing. And now, Marvel Studios may have outdone themselves with Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier follows the events of The Avengers and we see that Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to fit into the modern world. While jogging through Washington, DC, Steve meets Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a recently discharged soldier, before being whisked away by Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) for a mission. On that mission, where Steve focuses on rescuing hostages from a hijacked ship, Black Widow retrieves data from the computer. Back at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, after Steve accuses agency director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of not disclosing the true reason for the mission, Fury attempts to decode the data, but finds it to be secured. This leads him to confront security council member Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) about the agency's latest project -- A trio of "helicarriers" which will provide world security from above. Following this, things quickly begin to go wrong. Fury's life is put in danger, and Captain America is declared an enemy of the state. Steve and Black Widow now find themselves on the run, searching for answers as to what is happening at S.H.I.E.L.D. and a way to save the world. Meanwhile, Cap finds himself coming face-to-face with a new nemesis, The Winter Soldier.

Those in the general public who don't know comic books may not understand just how diverse the medium can be. It's not all just super hero shenanigans and stories which contain fantastic ideas. Following the alien invasion seen in The Avengers, Marvel Studios seems determined to bring things back down to Earth (so to speak). This started with Iron Man 3, which focused on the characters and saw Tony Stark out of the Iron Man suit more than he was in it. This trend continues with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it only makes sense. While Captain America certainly has some super-human abilities, he really doesn't fall into the same category as many of the other Marvel characters as far as his powers are concerned. "Super Soldier" is not just an alternate moniker for Steve Rogers, it also describes his personality. His honor and loyalty are what defines him and the fact that he is a man out of time give his character depth.

These facts give Captain America: The Winter Soldier the chance to be a different sort of super hero film and this pays off in spades. Simply put, this is one of the best pure action films which I've seen in years. This really took me back to the Joel Silver-producer action films from the late 80s and early 90s, as we are presented with an interesting premise and a group of intriguing characters who are then placed in scenes where the action is executed perfectly. The first action sequence on the ship is well-done, but somewhat pedestrian, but the subsequent scenes, two of which contain car chases, are mind-blowing and the movie goes as far as it can with its PG-13 rating with the punches and gunfights here. Keeping that in mind, it's almost shocking that Captain America: The Winter Soldier was directed by brothers Joe and Anthony Russo, two guys who have worked on sitcoms for years and directed You, Me, and Dupree. I'm not sure how they got this gig, but they have crafted action sequences which are much better than many so-called "action experts" who are working today.

And while the film can be enjoyed on a purely visceral level, the story here is the icing on the cake. While there are some cliched notions here, the disillusionment of Captain America adds weight to the plot. This is a man who has made a career of following order and he's suddenly questioning everything and playing it by ear. Add to this mix The Winter Soldier, a character who is a physical match for Captain America and is just as ruthless as Steve is honorable. This is a villain with depth and it only helps to round out what is already an impressive film. Chris Evans continues to impress as Captain America, bringing some much needed sly humor to what could be an incredibly stiff character. Anthony Mackie is a much welcome addition as Sam Wilson, showing that soldiers can have personalities. The most interesting addition to the cast is Robert Redford, although younger viewers who don't know Redford and his politics won't understand why it's a coup to see him in this kind of role.

Not only has Marvel Studios shown an incredible consistency here, they have beaten the odds of making a sequel which is better than its predecessor. Captain America: The First Avenger wasn't necessarily a bad movie, but it bore the brunt of being an introductory tale and had the additional challenge of taking the Marvel Universe to World War II. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an improvement in every facet, as it delivers a superior action film which has us jonesing for Captain America's next adventure.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier even manages to make Batroc the Leaper look cool on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Marvel Studios. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the blues and reds, and the image is well-balanced, although the opening action scene looks a bit dark at first. The level of detail is excellent, as we can make out the texture of Cap's uniform and the depth is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects are very impressive during the action sequences, and they are so detailed that we can make out individual gunshots. The stereo effects add to this as well, highlighting sounds moving from side-to-side. The subwoofer effects are palpable and wall-shaking.

The Captain America: The Winter Soldier Blu-ray Disc contains a nice assortment of extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Directors Anthony & Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely. "On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America's Battlegrounds" (10 minutes) examines the fight sequences and stunts of the film. This piece takes us on-set to see Evans and Johansson and the stuntmen prepping for the scenes. We also hear from the stunt doubles. This also examines the car chases. "On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check!" (2 minutes) is a brief profile of the actor who brings The Falcon to life. (We also learn that the production title was "Freezer Burn".) "Steve Rogers' Notebook" (2 minutes) looks at the notes which Cap is taking to catch up on what he missed and how this was tailored to various territories. The Disc contains four DELETED/EXTENDED SCENES which run about 4 minutes and can be viewed with audio commentary. These are all brief and don't introduce any new characters or sub-plots. The final extra is a 3-minute GAG REEL.

Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long