*Very Minor Spoilers About Captain America: The Winter Soldier Ahead*
One of my favorite clients from a previous career was a man named Jack. As older people tend to do their banking inside of branches instead of online or through mobile apps, Jack would come in with his checks from the VA a few times a month, usually in a full suit with hand-picked flowers for some of his “favorite gals”, which was all of the women in the branch. I was lucky enough to handle his finances, and in those moments we were able to get to know about each other’s life experiences. At the time, my best friend was an Army Ranger and I was training to become a commissioned officer, so his insight was invaluable whenever I could receive it.
Jack was part of the 4th Infantry Division, and he was “darn proud” to be a Fighting Ivy. Physically, you would never have been able to tell that this was one of the bravest men of his generation, storming Utah Beach with a few months of training and an unrelenting belief in his country. I had a Captain America statue on my desk, and he absolutely got a kick out of that; I told him that I consider myself his Bucky, and from then on we were fast friends. My favorite piece of advice that he gave me is something that he learned that day. “When you’re out there it’s okay to be afraid,” he would say as we shared burnt tea and subpar bank coffee at my desk. “But when you’re here at home, never let it find you at your address.”
He passed away about a year after that: he loved baseball, and on one of visits slipped and fell down the stairs at an Angels game. The internal bleeding was too much for his body, and a few days later I said goodbye to him at a small service in Newport Beach, before he was sent to Arlington to be laid to rest with his brothers. He was an infinitely inspiring man, who always had time to shoot the breeze with you.
Last night, while watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I suddenly remembered that quote he used to say to me. This was a film that I was going to enjoy unadulterated, regardless of content or compromise, but for the sake of keeping impartial, I will be starting with its shortfalls.
There was just one point that I didn’t really appreciate from the film: at times the pacing and story structure felt very abrupt, and I wished that the Russo brothers, Markus, and McFeely would have taken a little bit more time with some of the plot points. I will be the first to tell you that my view of Captain America as a whole is extremely biased in the positive spectrum, so I understand that “the movie wasn’t long enough” doesn’t really sound like an actual problem. Please bear with me here; I feel like I have a legitimate point.
Take, for example, the lead-up to finding out what type of military background Sam Wilson has. The audience meets him twice in the film before this point: first, in a chance meeting on a run in the opening scene, and second, in the PTSD support group that he runs. He goes from random soldier to highly trained aerial ace in just a few lines, and Cap is willing to trust him. You know, despite the fact that he is explicitly told to not trust anyone, on top of finding out that there were strategically placed people in his life without his knowledge. One of the ideas of a Marvel movie that I love the most is that I can get lost in its storytelling, and a few of these abrupt segues really took me out of the atmosphere.
Once again though, they portray characters’ personalities in the realm of Captain America in a way that comics fans will really enjoy. Black Widow is constantly sassy and appropriately off-topic, while always having a mysterious quality that draws your attention. The Falcon always feels like someone who genuinely wants to help, and though he speaks very rarely, most of the time it’s to great comedic effect. What I’m most excited about as a comics fan though, is the earnest portrayal of Captain America. Every line on-screen turns me into a screaming fanboy, because he constantly portrays the best values of the generation: unfailing courtesy, a reluctance to violence, and a belief in the best of people. Chris Evans’s portrayal of one of the most iconic characters in fiction is something to admire, and it’s apparent that he takes the role very seriously.
I was pleasantly surprised by the fight coordination and choreography this time around. Chris Carnel has credited work in many popular movies, while James Young has a smaller body of work being connected to movies like Limitless, but both men were heavily focused on detailed and precise movement that represented devastation and art. The best examples of this are in the augmented fighting styles of Captain America and the Winter Soldier. Knife manipulations that the Winter Soldier uses is his signature in the film: it is in no way close to the sheer brutality that we’ve seen in The Raid: Redemption, but it has an elegance and skill that is fun to watch. The inclusion of Captain America’s shield in each melee blow felt extremely organic, and never felt cumbersome or out of place. Carnel and Young never made these items feel like mere prop pieces; they were always the extensions of the person themselves, while never being ridiculous or over the top in its execution.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fun-filled and action-packed film that, let’s face it, you’re going to see if you’re reading this. It portrays fears in a way that is relatable to all of us: not knowing what your place is in the world, the lengths you would go to make people feel safe, and your past catching up to you are all basic plot points we’ve heard before, but here they all intertwine to make a worthwhile movie experience. This is a great contribution to Phase 2 of the Marvel movies, and I hope this is a strong indication of what’s to come.
Also, I can absolutely promise you that Jack would have enjoyed the movie, especially the parts with Scarlett Johansson. He would definitely have had a few hand-picked flowers for her.