Freedom vs Fear
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Redford
Written By: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, based on the character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Directed By: Anthony Russo and Joe Russo
Following the events of The Avengers Assemble (2012), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) aka Captain America has continued to work for S.H.I.E.L.D, the government agency that deals with domestic, foreign, and alien threats. Rogers has been acclimatising to modern life, but finds himself unable to get in line with Director of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury’s (Samuel L Jackson) latest plans. S.H.I.E.L.D has secretly been building enormous and powerful military hardware – three Helicarriers – that will target and take out a huge number of potential threats. Rogers is at odds with Fury over such a tactic, believing that someone should be proven guilty before force is used against them.
Rogers then finds himself on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D when Fury is gunned down after entrusting Rogers with a mysterious flashdrive. Assisted by super-spy and fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and war veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Rogers begins to uncover what has been rotting at the heart of S.H.I.E.L.D for decades. He also has to contend with the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a relentless emotionless assassin whose mission is to eliminate Rogers and who looks very familiar..
The world portrayed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is full of electronic surveillance and there are military and government secrets aplenty which a few individuals believe the world should be told about. It certainly fits theories that some people have in our own society about secret groups actually running the world and chimes with modern concerns about the secrets governments could be keeping. Such things are not portrayed in a positive light in the film. Rogers believes that he fought for freedom, for people being allowed to make their own choices. But HYDRA, the dastardly group he has long fought against, believes in making people’s choices for them, in guiding the world and getting rid of those who stand in their way, all in order to make a better purer world. ‘You’re holding a gun to everybody’s head and calling it protection,’ Steve observes, adding that ‘this isn’t freedom, this is fear.’ People might make mistakes but that is their right and how else will they learn? Choosing who should live or die before their own actions condemn them is an alien concept to Rogers, one that he fought against during World War II. In Rogers’ eyes, it seems as though the world has changed a great deal, but not completely. Some beliefs endure and will always need to be fought against; the need for people willing to fight them remains also.
Rogers is specifically told by Fury that he shouldn’t trust anybody. Rogers is himself a very honest genuine person, Romanoff observes that he is a bad liar; a trait that he doesn’t share with most of the film’s other characters. But he learns the wisdom of Fury’s order when he uncovers the HYDRA personnel hiding amongst S.H.I.E.L.D’s ranks. Who can he trust? Fury himself keeps secrets and frequently tells lies, pretending to be dead and not informing Rogers or Romanoff of his plan. But Fury discovers that even he is not immune to secrets and treachery when it turns out that he was wrong to trust his old friend Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), senior S.H.I.E.L.D member and significant part of HYDRA too. Rogers finds out that he is always surrounded by never-ending layers of secrets and lies. A pretty neighbour is revealed to be a S.H.I.E.L.D agent stationed there to keep an eye on him, Rogers’ colleagues suddenly attempt to kill him, and his best friend Bucky Barnes turns out not to be dead after all but instead has become a brainwashed assassin intent on killing Rogers. Truly nothing is what it seems.
However, despite this painful lesson, Rogers doesn’t attempt to take on HYDRA alone. He’s a soldier and therefore knows the value of working as part of a team. He decides to trust Romanoff despite her talent and capacity for lying and connects with fellow war veteran Sam Wilson who is willing to help them even though he knows this means he’ll face very real terrifying danger. Despite the risks and the tiny group of allies, Wilson too wants to fight for what’s right. Rogers has got every reason to refuse help but he decides to stick to what he learned a long time ago; that while he could go through life alone, even in the most trying situations, he doesn’t have to.
There are overwhelming odds stacked against him but Rogers still has the courage and strength of belief in his own convictions to question his orders and to begin kicking over rocks, unafraid to dig out the unpleasant truth. He is told first by S.H.I.E.L.D and then by HYDRA that what’s being done to the world is for its greater good, that it will be made a better place by such a violent cleansing. But Rogers refuses to give in to such a perspective and despite the insurmountable enemy he faces, he fights hard for what he believes in. He believes that defending freedom and choice is worth the pain of facing his best friend in battle, that it’s worth the hugely dangerous fight against a much bigger and more powerful opponent. Rogers has experienced before how a handful of outnumbered individuals can make a real impact in the world if they are willing to keep trying, to use their unique abilities and work together against the odds. Just as HYDRA’s aims live on, so too does the belief that such people can and must be stopped. A difference can be made, if we’re willing to stand against the status-quo and endure danger and pain for what we believe is right, even if everyone else believes otherwise. As Rogers himself knows, some things are worth such a risk, some things are even worth dying for.