Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can’t reveal in our review.
The second half of Captain America: The Winter Soldier is made up of almost nothing but giant revelations, so grab a chair. Anyone familiar with Ebert’s Law Of Economy Of Characters will guess that the coolly pragmatic senator Robert Redford plays is the secret villain pulling the strings. But will they also guess that the mysterious Winter Soldier, the very prolific political assassin of the title, is actually the Captain’s thawed and brainwashed sidekick, Bucky? Or that—in a nice nod to The Odessa File—both are agents of the Nazi supervillain group HYDRA, which infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. after the fall of the Third Reich?
That last revelation, while reasonably clever, bugs me a little. Much of The Winter Soldier is about Steve Rogers grappling with the moral compromises his country made during the six decades he was encased in a block of ice. (“I wake up, they say we won,” Rogers says to Nick Fury in The Avengers. “They didn’t say what we lost.”) The film is about Captain America coming to terms with what America has become, and with the ends-justify-means ideology the nation’s leaders often adopt. By revealing that much of the corrupt decisions of that half-century were actually made by HYDRA moles, The Winter Soldier re-establishes bold lines of good and bad. It wasn’t the U.S. government’s fault! It was those dastardly Nazis pretending to be the U.S. government! Moral crisis resolved!
Here’s some other stuff that happens throughout the film:
· Nick Fury is shot and “killed” around the midway mark, only to later reveal that he just pulled a Gordon-in-The Dark Knight and faked his death. No one really dies in Marvel movies, especially when they’re played by Samuel L. Jackson.
· Speaking of nobody dying in Marvel movies, Toby Jones’ Nazi doctor from the original shows up as a very large, outdated computer, his nefarious brain preserved inside. He gets one campy, expository monologue, and is then blown to smithereens. The scene is worth it for a lot of reasons, chief among them that the Black Widow gets to make a WarGames joke.
· Nick Fury shoots and kills Redford’s character, which seems kind of fascist. The Winter Soldier gets away, prompting Cap and Anthony Mackie’s Falcon to embark on a quest to find him at film’s end.
· The nice nurse who lives next to Captain America? The one played by the star of Revenge? Totally a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent! Most of the characters in this movie work for S.H.I.E.L.D., incidentally.
· Until the end of the movie, that is! In a somewhat endearing, highly improbable ode to government transparency, S.H.I.E.L.D. makes all of its secrets public. There’s the strong implication that the whole agency is no more, with Fury heading to Europe as a kind of free-agent spy. How will this seismic change affect Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., whose creators have been adamant exists in the same universe as its big-screen counterparts?
· There are two post-credits sequences, one just moments after the cut to black, the other at the very end. The first one, directed by Joss Whedon, is a tie-in to The Avengers 2, depicting the team’s new sibling members—Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen)—in the custody of some villain I didn’t recognize. (Help, commenters?) The second, less exciting button shows The Winter Bucky visiting the Smithsonian and discovering who he is. It is not worth the endless credits one must sit through to get to it.