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Stylish ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ brings moral complexity to MCU

FFCC member Reuben Pereira reviews Marvel studio’s flagship 2014 release, Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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Let’s face it… Captain America isn’t the most exciting member of the four Avengers (I’m going to pretend Hawkeye and Black Widow don’t exist). He isn’t as flashy and funny as Iron Man, broody and conflicted as the Hulk or even as courtly and flamboyant as Thor. With his pious Boy Scout routine and flag-waving, all-American set of values, he was always going to be a black and white caricature in a 21st century world. He was a product of his time, which is why it made perfect sense that his first cinematic adventure, Captain America: The First Avenger, be set in the golden era of propaganda.

Yet, it’s this very “man out of time” element—this status as an outsider—that enables him to provide an outsider’s perspective on the dicey war-on-terror world we live in. It’s what eventually makes him the most relatable of the Marvel heroes, and in turn, a threat to the forces in power in the world he resides. It’s also what makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier one of the most accomplished films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (henceforth referred to as MCU).

Many of my colleagues have been smart to compare The Winter Soldier with numerous conspiracy thrillers of the ‘70s—in particular Alan J. Packula’s paranoia-brimmed The Parallax View and Sydney Pollack’s taut Three Days of the Condor, whose star Robert Redford also plays a major role in this film. As much as it owes to those movies, this sequel is stylistically—in its mood, pace and staging—very much a 21st century beast. Its DNA includes the Tom Clancy thrillers of the ‘90s, The Manchurian Candidate, Bryan De Palma’s Mission: Impossible, and the Bourne trilogy.

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