DirectorAnthony and Joe Russo
Release Date(s)2014 (April 23, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: C+
How would those with power respond to those with superpower? The answer, almost certainly, is fear. And when powerful people become fearful, they too often become something else as well… evil. This is the central concern of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, one of my favorite entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Part superhero film, part political thriller, it’s a game changer. The story is not about some alien threat or mutant villain. It’s about us and the compromises we make in pursuit of freedom and security.
The story centers on Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans). He’s been fighting for SHIELD, an organization started by the woman he loved back in the 1940s, to save a dangerous world. Unfortunately, that world has since changed and Steve is starting to believe that the compromises he’s being asked to make are too great. SHIELD is preparing to launch an initiative called Project Insight to safeguard the planet, but it crosses way too many lines. It’s a power that no one should have. And when the real threats are revealed, they’re close to home. So Steve must decide: Who can he trust? SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)? His fellow agent, Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)? US Secretary of Internal Security Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford)? Steve doesn’t know, but he’ll have to figure it out fast. Once Insight is launched, there may be no stopping it.
Once again, directors Anthony and Joe Russo deliver a rare superhero film that’s driven as much by character as plot, with real personal consequences, and genuine suspense. It’s smartly-written, by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, drawing as much from the novels of Tom Clancy as the pages of Marvel Comics, and that’s a good thing – it makes the story feel more real world and relevant. The Winter Solider also adds a great new character in the form of a ex-USAF pararescue veteran named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who befriends Steve in the film’s opening minutes. And it draws gravitas from a strong supporting turn by Redford, in a role that recalls his work in such films as The Candidate (1972), Three Days of the Condor (1975), All the President’s Men (1976), and Spy Game (2001).
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was shot digitally in the ARRIRAW (2.8K) and Redcode RAW codecs (5K) using Arri Alexa Plus and Red Epic cameras for a 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. It was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate, which has been upsampled and graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 (though the Digital presentation features Dolby Vision). The 4K presentation offers a noticeable improvement in detail and texturing over the previous Blu-ray edition – not as much as Captain America: Civil War (reviewed here in 4K), but a bit more than Captain America: The First Avenger (see also in 4K), and obviously it’s more noticeable in those scenes captured at higher resolution. The film has a 1970s aesthetic, with cinematography (by District 9 lenser Trent Opaloch) that prioritizes natural lighting, so the HDR adds to that more natural look and lends nuance to the color palette. You see this right away in the film’s opening, as Steve and Sam jog around pre-dawn Washington DC. But the HDR adds extra pop and nuance to other scenes too. Shadows are deep, while highlights are bold but stop just shy of eye-reactivity.
Like Civil War in 4K, The Winter Soldier offers a new object-based English Dolby Atmos mix. Staging is natural and lively; big and wide up front, with excellent directional effects and panning. Overall dynamic range is strong, with clear dialogue, and decent muscle in the bass. The Atmos height channels and more liquid panning are welcome enhancements, not just in the film’s helicarrier battle, but the many car chases and shootouts as well. Again, per the Disney standard for its 4K UHD releases, you do need to dial the volume up a bit to fully appreciate this mix. Additional audio options are available in English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus, and French (with Quebec dubbing) in 5.1 Dolby Digital. Optional subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French (with Quebec subtitles), standard French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are no extras on the 4K disc itself, but the package contains the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray as well (though unfortunately not the Blu-ray 3D version). That disc offers the following extras (video in HD):
- Audio Commentary with directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely
- On the Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America’s Battlegrounds (10:11)
- On Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check! (1:55)
- Steve Rogers’ Notebook (2:26)
- Deleted and Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary (4 scenes – 3:36 in all)
- Gag Reel (2:37)
- Guardians of the Galaxy teaser trailer (2:33)
The commentary is pretty great and thoughtful too, though the featurettes are about as EPK trivial as they come. The deleted scenes don’t amount to much either, but there is a nice personal moment between Romanoff and Fury. The disc also includes promos for Marvel and ABC’s Agents of Shield: Season One and some of the previous MCU films on Blu-ray and DVD, as well as Disney XD’s animated Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of Smash, and Disney Movies Anywhere. There’s the usual Movies Anywhere Digital code in on a paper insert in the packaging too.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is grounded, entertaining, and dives right into the very heart of what makes the MCU so compelling – its characters. And no characters are more central to the MCU than Captain America and Nick Fury. This is a damn good film. Disney and Marvel’s new 4K Ultra HD edition is, by far, the best way to experience it.
- Bill Hunt