The path to Avengers: Endgame – Part 9 of 21: Captain America, The Winter Soldier

Editor’s Note: WAVE 3 News Photojournalist Jeff Knight is really looking forward to the release of Avengers: Endgame. So much so, that he’s decided to revisit the previous 20 films in the series. Jeff is watching each movie again and sharing his thoughts about them with us.

Avengers - Jeff Knight

By: Jeff Knight | WAVE 3 News Photojournalist

Since the last time we saw him, Steve Rogers has been adjusting to the modern world after fending off an alien invasion. You know, like guys do after being asleep for 70 years. An old friend of Steve’s shows up unannounced. SHIELD has been developing a fleet of flying aircraft carriers along with an algorithm to defeat threats before they happen. A SHIELD divided against itself cannot stand.

Enter The Russo Brothers. They have directed three of the movies on My Top Five MCU Movies List. Don’t ask me what the other two are because I don’t really have a Top Five List. But the Russo Brothers do have three movies on it. Some say these movies are homogeneous in tone and that the directors aren’t allowed to have distinct styles. That’s unfair. Compared to the Joss Whedon Avengers movies, where physics not need not apply, The Winter Soldier is more akin to Jason Bourne or The Raid. Things have mass and matter not felt in the more dreamlike Avengers.

Compare Black Widow movie to movie. When the Winter Soldier is hunting Black Widow down through the streets. The sense of impending doom is palpable. Scarlett Johansson projects great fear, like inescapable death is upon her. She reminds me of Hank Schrader on the ground at Uncle Jack’s feet. In The Avengers, when the Hulk chases her through the Helicarrier, Johansson looked like she was acting scarred. Being chased by the Winter Soldier, Black Widow looks terrified. That’s a distinction and a difference.

Also, in this movie, she is a superbly skilled fighter and athlete. In The Avengers, she had Jedi moves which stretched plausibility. The latter can be fun for an audience to watch. The former is more engaging. Heroes can get hurt. They are afraid. In a completely fantastic and unrealistic movie, reality seems to exist. An exception here is when Sam jumps from the 41st floor into a helicopter. That moment feels out of place. I would have better accepted that moment if he would have broken a few ribs there. Or a finger. Or his watch. Something should have broken.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is good about varying itself up, delving into a different genres. The first Captain America was a WWII flick. Ant-Man is a heist caper. Doctor Strange is a medical drama. And The Winter Soldier is a 1970s style political thriller, akin to The Parallax View, Black Sunday, Marathon Man, and many more that I haven’t seen–but would highly recommend anyway. It was a fine time for a genre. But All the President’s Men is the one we care about here because Robert Redford is in it. No, Three Days of the Condor is the one we care about here because Robert Redford is in it.

Like Three Days of the Condor, The Winter Soldier is about a guy who stumbles across information he doesn’t understand that forces him to go on the run from his own organization. Max von Sydow is kind of like The Winter Soldier. Captain America is like Robert Redford. Robert Redford is like Cliff Robertson. Cliff Robertson is like Uncle Ben. Come to think of it, the Condor is a CIA analyst. So he’s more like Jack Ryan than The Winter Soldier. So forget I said anything about The Winter Soldier. Where was I? Ah, yes…

In The Winter Soldier, Agent Sitwell says the algorithm is targeting “…Bruce Banner, Steven Strange, anyone who’s a threat to Hydra.” This is Doctor Strange’s first mention— 2 1/2 years before he had his own movie. What is Strange’s timeline? Is he already a sorcerer at this point? Or did the algorithm figure he would be The Sorcerer Supreme? The latter makes more sense. Between his car accident and the end of his movie might have been a timespan of years. The events of that movie likely have started by the time of The Winter Soldier.

These movies do so well with weaving together with each other to build a universe, but they have disappointed when it comes to integrating the TV shows. The best use of movie/TV connectivity is with The Winter Soldier and Agents of SHIELD. AoS aired on a Tuesday. The Winter Soldier was released on a Friday. Four days later, Agents of SHIELD was completely changed by the events of the movie. This kind of thing is rewarding for an audience.

The Russos say a couple scenes were inspired by Alfred Hitchcock: the slow car chase and the elevator fight. The fight in the elevator has a beautiful setup. CA boards an empty elevator, a couple toughs follow. One has his hand tensely on his weapon. Down a floor, more toughs enter. Down another floor, more toughs enter. Steve notices he is surrounded in a small space. He sees sweat dripping down one man’s brow. He slowly realizes he’s in trouble before trouble takes action. Great buildup by directors who understand classic film language. It is like watching Tippi Hedren smoke a cigarette while crows amass on a playground.

The buildup is also reminiscent of Cary Grant being alone and helpless at a bus stop in the middle of a cornfield as he realizes he’s about to be assassinated by a “kamikaze” crop-duster. Hmmmmmm. That scene doesn’t seem as ridiculous while watching North by Northwest as it does while describing it.

At one point in the movie, we see an old newspaper article about Howard Stark dying in a car crash. While Zola says “accidents will happen”. Later, Black Widow hands Stave a dossier on The Winter Solider saying, “Be careful Steve. You might not want to pull on that thread.” This is all groundwork for Civil War. It’s so 20/20 with hindsight.

At another point, Fury says, “The last time I trusted someone, I lost an eye.” With the revelation of Captain Marvel, that’s kind of funny. Speaking of Captain Marvel, when Fury thought he was dying in The Winter Soldier, he handed Steve a flash drive with SHIELD info on it. Why didn’t he hand off the Captain Marvel pager?

Some Miscellaneous Tidbits:

  • It’s difficult to say, “On your left” without feeling like you’re doing a Captain America impression.
  • Steve has seen War Games? Watching that movie was surprisingly high on his To Do list.
  • Co-director Joe Russo plays a doctor in this movie. He also plays a corpse in Civil War.
  • Maria Hill ends up applying for a job at Stark Industries.
  • Fury’s tombstone reads “The path of the riotous man…” Very Jules Winnfield-ish. I guess that’s a better epitaph than most Jules quotes would be.

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