ScreeningNotes’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Holding a gun to everyone on earth and calling it protection."
I don't know if this is the result of watching The Winter Soldier side-by-side with the rest of the MCU or if I've just changed as a critic, but my understanding of this going into it was that it's fine for a Marvel movie but it's not, like, a real political action/thriller, Robert Redford is there to remind you of All the President's Men but this is all just surface with little substance, right? Well maybe it's just that I've always cared a little bit more about surfaces than I should, but this time through the film I concluded that it is absolutely and definitively my jam. This is what I want from my silly superhero flicks.
If Iron Man 3 was all about processing the psychological fallout of the Battle of New York and reframing its political implications, then The Winter Soldier is all about dealing with the the nation's response to this crisis, about confronting America's traumatized overcompensation in the form of the imperialist militarization of our national security. Two years after New York, S.H.I.E.L.D. is finally ready to launch Project Insight, a system of massive, flying, pilot-free gunboats linked to the agency's spy satellites and intelligence databases and capable of instantly assassinating anyone on the planet.
So what we have here is basically a global drone strike initiative operating on a "digital book" of information gathered with methods of questionable ethical standards created in response to a national tragedy. It is, as explicitly as it could possibly be in a major studio blockbuster, Obama's drone strikes operating on the Patriot Act in response to the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But it's the characterization of Project Insight that really does it for me: Zola's Algorithm, the "digital book" that approximates the Patriot Act in its digital intelligence gathering and that feeds its information to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s helidrones, was an initiative started by HYDRA after WWII.
If we follow the film's metaphor to its logical endpoint, American "national security" is propaganda used by Nazis to sell the country totalitarianism with a smile. The war on terror and America's counterterrorist surveillance initiatives are founded in fascism.
Purge the empire.
Now if only the Russos could figure out how to shoot action scenes without cutting every half second