Captain America: The Winter Soldier begins with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), along with a host of S.H.I.E.L.D commandos, storming a hijacked ship at sea to rescue some hostages from modern-day pirates. While Captain America rescues the hostages, Black Widow infiltrates the ship’s computer system and recovers data suggesting that there might be some moles in the S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation. S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) brings his concerns about this to the Secretary of the World Security Council, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). But Nick is attacked and killed by the world’s most notorious assassin, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), an ex-Russian black ops cyborg.
The Winter Soldier targets Captain America next. Captain America is branded a rogue agent and forced to fight against the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents with whom he once worked. In a bid to discover those responsible for Nick Fury’s assassination, Captain America teams up with Black Widow and a new ally, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie). They uncover a sinister organisation from the past, bent on overthrowing S.H.I.E.L.D. and ruling the world.
Superheroes; assassins; good versus evil
Captain America: The Winter Soldier contains intense action violence, including shooting, stabbing, strangling, punching, car chases and explosions. For example:
- Captain America kicks a pirate in the knee, and we hear the sounds of bones breaking.
- Captain America throws a knife at a pirate, pinning the man’s hand to a wall (no blood and gore is shown).
- A female commando uses a garrotte to strangle a pirate.
- Several police cars deliberately ram into the side of a car, and several police officers fire handguns and automatic weapons at the car. The officers move a mechanical ram to the side of the vehicle and repeatedly ram the door to break in and get at the driver. The driver fires an automatic weapon at the police, shooting and killing several of the police officers. The driver then uses a grenade launcher to fire at a police van, which explodes in flames. The car drives off with several police cars in pursuit. The car runs into civilian cars and runs down police officers. Eventually a projectile fired at the car makes it explode.
- An assassin shoots Nick in the chest. Nick lies on a hospital operating table with bullet wounds on his chest. There is blood on the sheet and on the surgical gloves of the surgeon who is working on him. Heart monitors indicate that he has died. Surgeons use a defibrillator to restart his heart, which doesn’t work. Later we see his body lying on a hospital bed.
- Some men in a lift attack Captain America using electrified batons. Captain America punches and kicks them, and turns their own weapons on them, making them all unconscious. He crashes through the elevator’s glass wall, falling hundreds of metres to the ground and surviving uninjured.
- A man remorselessly kills his housekeeper, shooting her twice in the chest.
- Commandos attack a man. The man uses a knife to slash some of the commandos’ throats and chests, and then he shoots others.
- In the movie’s final epic battle soldiers are killed when grenades explode, dozens of soldiers are shot, and a soldier is killed when he is sucked into an aircraft carrier’s giant exhaust fan. There is a knife fight between Captain America and the Winter Soldier, ending with Captain America breaking the Winter Soldier’s arm. The Winter Soldier shoots Captain America in the torso three times and brutally punches Captain America repeatedly in the face. Three gigantic airships fire cannons at each other, resulting in ships exploding and causing mass destruction when they crash into buildings, the ground and the sea.
- A man holds a woman hostage and threatens to detonate an explosive device pinned to her chest. The woman detonates the device herself but manages to survive.
- A man is strapped to a chair with some kind of electric shock device attached to his head and a rubber restraint in his mouth. The machine is turned on and he convulses and screams out in pain.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier contains occasional low-level sexual references. For example:
- A woman jests with Captain America about asking a woman out on a date, but Captain America replies that he is too tired and too busy.
- While mildly flirting with his female neighbour, Captain America tells the woman he will keep his distance from her. She replies, ‘Hopefully not too far’.
- A woman asks a man to kiss her, telling him that displays of public affection make people uncomfortable.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
Captain America: The Winter Soldier shows some use of substances. For example:
- Characters drink socially.
- A man self-injects painkillers following a vehicle accident in which he was injured.
Nudity and sexual activity
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has some nudity and sexual activity, including when two people kiss passionately on the lips for several seconds to evade pursuers.
There is no product placement of concern in the movie itself but plenty of associated Marvel Comics merchandise is marketed to children and teenagers.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier has occasional low-level coarse language.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the second instalment in the Marvel Captain America series. It’s a fantasy action movie targeting fans of Marvel comics, as well as adolescent boys and also adults who enjoy superhero movies.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is darker than many similar movies and seems to have more violent scenes than necessary for the plot. It therefore deserves its M rating and isn’t recommended for children under 14 years. Parental guidance is recommended for slightly older teenagers.
These are the main messages from Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
- To build something new, we sometimes must first destroy the old.
- It is hard to trust people that you don’t know.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include friendship and trust – both of which this movie presents as things you need to earn.