Captain America: The Winter Soldier - An In-Depth EF Review

I finally got to see the highly anticipated Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Did it reach expectation? Does it deliver on what Marvel set out to do? Hit the jump and gain some of my perspective on this amazing entry into the MCU.

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By E.F. "Manny" Camacho - 4/4/2014
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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

General Information
Released: April 4th, 2014
Opened: March 26th-28th 2014 Internationally @ $95,383,000.00
Metacritic: 69 with an 8.9 User Score
Rotten Tomatoes Aggregated So Far: 88% Critics & 94% Audience
IMDB Profile
Movie Website
Trailer

 
Editorial Biases

I liked the first Captain America film. I liked it because it lived in the era of the 'greatest generation'. I liked it because I got to see a proper movie about one of my favorite Marvel characters. But I wanted more out of that film. It felt a bit rushed. It was a great and solid tie to the MCU but it was lacking. 

Going into this film I was expecting that it would give me a lot of the same things I gained from the original. A more toned down concept for a character focused picture that was very heavily based on the solidarity Steve Rogers is feeling; rather is portrayed to feel constantly throughout the original film.

While I had expected a good movie, I was not expecting to be impressed with a solid character story. Let alone a solid character ensemble.


The Good

The character development in the film feels appropriately paced, and shines the spotlight properly on Steve Rogers. We get a great amount of time with Sam "Falcon" Wilson, played gracefully by Anthony Mackie yet we don't get a lot of time on his origin. We simply see a connection formed between the two soldiers that builds from a very specific place. Something the 'greatest generation' had when it came to soldiers and war was the banding together of brothers. "Soldiers know soldiers" would be an easy and poignant way to say it. Rogers may respect Fury on some level but he's a spy not a soldier, he doesn't trust Fury; similarly with Black Widow. But Wilson is a tried and true soldier. The bond formed between both men is extremely apparent and slowly takes on a proper and informal comfort zone. While I can agree the movie uses this with undertones, most may not understand why their relationship becomes such a strongly bonded one early on if they don't understand how soldiers can bond in the field. But I liked how the film doesn't waste too much time attempting to showcase this aspect. It wasn't brutally forced on us. It was appropriately paced and it made great sense.

I almost feel like there might have been scenes filmed where the trio of Cap, Falcon, and Widow went to retrieve the EXO-7 Falcon rig, but I'm slightly glad it was removed from the film. I would state it would have been a digression from the main story. If such footage does exist, it is thankfully best saved for a directors cut of some sort.

Scarlett Johansson continues to bring her character to life in a way that is both dangerously arousing and almost perfectly close to the comic. Of course we rarely hear her use a Russian accent, but I think that's ok, she makes up for it in a variety of ways in every MCU film in which she continues to reprise the role.
 

The Bad

Is it me or do we all agree that 'Shaky-Cam Syndrome' should now be listed in the DSM5 as a psychological disorder that directors have? Because I think it is a disease that may be spreading among Hollywoods elite. I also think that the extreme closeup and flash-focusing around a scene is a bit of a copout to hinder any possibility for the audience to not notice a stunt double. 

I think with a little more movie magic we can maintain camera angles or jump to alternate camera perspectives to produce certain shots, sans the shaky-cam and the refocusing shot. Maybe it's just me, but it takes a little bit away from the film if I have to go into rapid eye movement every moment to readjust and try to comprehend what I just saw. Then questioning what I just saw as it moves on to the next scene. It's almost as reflexive as blinking at the moment you needed to not blink. That's frustrating, because the phrase "if you blink you'll miss something" isn't really what I'm going for here.

I also kept being driven crazy by my intolerable use of common sense that struggled to understand why the helicarriers had to rise to 3000 feet? To then be expected to believe that cannons, aiming in a downward angle could fire rounds from DC to as far North as New Jersey...then it hit me. State of Plot essentially played out that it would be more believable to assume this 'weapon' could fire to such reaches but would never actually be fired in the film. Versus having the helicarrier climb to actual suborbital heights; roughly 62 miles (327,360 feet) and believably fire on these targets that spanned hundreds of miles apart on the ground. Why? For one logical reason. It would not be believable for these characters to be running around the decks of these carriers let alone flying around them without oxygen masks. Especially without specialty suits preventing them from freezing at such altitudes. Hooray plot! Trade one point for another to relieve the issue of suspension of disbelief and still not accomplish the task.  Is this a big problem? No. It's a nerd/geek argument that is more about the science and math associated with such an endeavor than it is a problem for the mainstream to comprehend. But I'm a nerd/geek that likes to be complete in my assessments of such things if they are present. 

The Ugly

Did I say I hated Shaky-Cam Syndrome? No, well I hate it...

There isn't much issue in this film that would really constitute being in this category of my In-Depth reviews. If I were to make a case against the film that I'd feasibly add here it would be the lack of Hawkeye. Which is understandable. I'd also argue that there was no mention of Coulson, let alone any mention of the other agents from the TV series. I think that was a sore misrepresentation of this continuity concept. I expect undoubtedly in the next episodes of Agents of SHIELD to come there will be fallout from this film into their storylines. A simple communication between Fury and Coulson on a screen or at the Triskellion would have sufficed and than a dismissal toward other endeavors away from the films plot would have been nice. Especially because we had Sitwell in an important role present. But then again, I made statements about the appropriate pace this film had in moving forward with its characters and their development. 

To argue any of the above would really be reaching and nitpicky to say the least. I can understand why it is not in the film, but I can also argue the same thing in past MCU films, such as with Avengers. The momentary acknowledgement that Dr. Foster was safe and the same argument of "why?" would also present the argument about why was Warmachine missing in Avengers? These are arguments best left to the fan community to chew on and speculate about on the inconquerable ether that is the interwebs. 

The Great

Do you want to play a game?

I love the reference to War Games. I love this reference because it was a lovely tongue-in-cheek statement to the concept of this film. This was an excellent spy vs. spy film, dipped in Marvel's universe like a vanilla soft-serve cone into chocolate at a Dairy Queen. We've seen the action packed scenes, sure. We've seen the giant war scenes, ok. We've even seen super-powered characters like Thor and Hulk go-at-it, sure give me more...I'm game! But truly we needed to see this film containing all of the above but told with a feel for espionage, for some intrigue. Develop the characters in their struggle and connection to one another, but use strife, paranoia, betrayal, guile, and a variety of other pretentious words that help you understand the concept of struggling through adversity. 

I loved the integration of Civil War #1. It was marvelously placed and used well. If you haven't read this series, you need to. I won't ruin the scene. It is not exactly as it is in the comic, but it uses the premise in this film with aspects of what happens to Captain America when SHIELD tries to apprehend him in both iterations. It is an enormous foreshadowing to use this bit of source material in this film. Especially when you add the Winter Soldier element to the mix. Two very specific elements helping build the future of 'Cap' in the MCU with varied implications. 

Once upon a time I was in the military and because of this fact, I love and appreciate military accurate combat tactics in military-style films. Even if this is a comic book film with some super-hero flair. I appreciate that fighting tactics used by both Rogers and Barnes were deliberately US vs Russian fighting tactics. I just wish I had more of it presented with less of a shaky-cam effect to appreciate more of the movement. 

GSP from UFC fame in a cameo as Batroc was an extreme highlight for me in the movie. I moonlight on a newspaper as a UFC journalist, and that was a fantastic showing for the former welterweight Champ. Among other cameo's was Toby Jones returning as Arnim Zola as we have all waited to see him again. Granted it wasn't exactly as he appears in the comics, but it was a perfect appearance for the characters interpretation. I also expect we'll be seeing him later in the MCU.

…and, Amazing?

“Stephen Strange...”

The future of the MCU was laid before us, and not just toward the next incarnation of the Avengers, but in terms of some of the most brilliant villains Marvel has ever devised. We already had Red Skull, and we already know that Ultron and Thanos are in the fray. Guardians will pull out more galactic level baddies but Winter Soldier just opened the door for the next level of MCU films. Not just because of the Doctor Strange Easter egg that was dropped. But with the mid-credit and post credit teasers. 

That said. The fight choreography, when you could follow it, was spectacular. You feel the blows, you can easily feel the theater around you heave and huff with each blow. If not feel the sonic bombardment of patrons yelling "Oh!" and "Ah!" from the various encounters. There was a moment when I began to wonder if the 2005 comic book, Captain America Volume 5 #1, "Out of Time" Part 1 would see itself completely come to life during the climax of the film, and I was literally at the edge of my seat. Perhaps because I'm an avid follower of all of the Captain America comics I can shudder through various scenes when I felt both Comic and Film universes coalesce. Due to some perceived outcomes prior to the film, seeing it happen, and then it be taken in a different fruitful direction was exhilarating. Those are the moments I enjoy. I comfortably retreated into my chair again and allowed the rest of the movie to play out until I found myself nearing collapse from my stated seat once more.  

To continue, Sebastian Stan is without question fantastic as the Winter Soldier. To some degree it's hard to make too many statements about his performance as most of his portrayal he could have researched watching the early Terminator films. Learning to maintain an air of extremely urgent danger and focus. Stan does this beautifully. Both Robert Patrick and Arnold Schwarzenegger were extremely intimidating Terminators, but personally, Sebastian Stan might be in contention for dethroning both of them in this extremely sinister role. Stan looked beyond incredible and every time his character hits Rogers you might just wince a little, especially near the climax of the film. If you've seen it, you'll know, if you haven't, you'll understand when you do...

What Might have Hurt This Film…

I think one of the greatest strengths of big budget films today, most of all Comic Book Films, is the fact that the marketing budget for them are larger than some third world countries GDP's. I think while this is a powerful thing it also hurts these films in the way that they can reveal so much of their plots before anyone actually sees them on the big screen. I'm not complaining for getting more, not at all. But I think in terms of the fandom, the expectation of the films greatness is lowered by minor reveals that churn throughout the internet headspace and slowly the most intuitive of fans can break the stories and help reveal some of the strongest plots that should have been kept secret until witnessed on the big screen. All because a random image on a trailer reveals it.

This films trailer, I will say, did a very good 'bit' of misdirection with the helicarrier crashes. Giving you what was believed to be too much, but the intention and cause were perceived to be something else altogether. So as far as The Winter Solider goes, bravo for that. However, considering what other critics may argue against the film - "not seeing anything new" - strikes me as effect from a cause of over-marketing material that could have been held back.

That said, the camera work and the overarching issues of Rogers past can become redundant and boring. But truly not enough to cause the film any harm.

Overall Verdict?

I loved the film, shaky-cam aside, it had a lot of heart. It showcased Steve Rogers and paved the way for a very enthralling MCU future. It was a very terrestrial Marvel character film prior to a very extra-terrestrial set of films that will be proceeding it. It felt powerful, it felt purposeful, the characters were extremely human but still felt larger than life, and that is the general goal of a film like this. I think fans of Captain America will absolutely love it. Fans of the mainstream MCU may think they are seeing the same thing if they are just watching these films as a general diversion, because it's a Marvel-esque Jason Bourne typical story. But the character is not typical, and neither was the main super-villain. 

4.5 out of 5 Comic Book Movie Geeks

4_5_geeks



Have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet? Are you planning to? Did this review help you? Do you agree or disagree? I want to hear from you! Comment, share, tweet, pin, form your words out of Lego pieces, whatever tickles your fancy. @EmanuelFCamacho
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67 Comments
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kinghulk - 4/5/2014, 1:55 AM
regarding the hellicarriers i dont think they where meant to fire all the way to let's say new york from where they where in DC. it was just listing all target's, i imagine it would then move into position to kill the target.
efcamachopmp - 4/5/2014, 5:59 AM
If you look at the targeting computer as it is calculating who and where the possible targets are it shows an overview of the killzone spanning above Delaware. You might be right, however it seems to imply because of the "1000 kills per second" that it can shoot all the targets within moments...Hence the 'State of Plot' issue.

specialkail - 4/5/2014, 8:56 AM
did anyone else find it strange that the whole time cap and widow were on the run from shield widow kept using her super secret shield spy phone device? can shield not track that shit?
Pasto - 4/5/2014, 9:25 AM
MAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNY!
SauronsBANE - 4/5/2014, 9:50 AM
Great review! Loved the movie and you hit on a lot of the reasons why.

But I have a few gripes with...well, your gripes haha. I appreciate that you yourself even admit that they're nitpicky, but MAN are they nitpicky.

I hate shaky-cam as well...when it'd not done right. There's this weird, popular idea out there now that ALL shaky-cam is terrible, when it's really not. The Jason Bourne movies are example #1 of shaky-cam done right and with a clear purpose. One of the most generally accepted strengths of The Winter Soldier is that the action scenes are so intense and the fight scenes are expertly choreographed and crazy intense, right?

Well, a huge part of why those scenes work so well on a visceral level is because of quick cuts and shaky-cam. It makes the audience feel like they're in the middle of the fight. It makes Cap's and the Winter Soldier's movements seem unnaturally fast...which they're supposed to be. Believe it or not, these scenes would end up being MUCH more boring and distant if it weren't for shaky-cam.

The filmmakers didn't choose to do shaky-cam to piss people off. They chose it for a reason: because it fit in with their action scenes. And boy, it did! Just my two cents, though. Great review, otherwise! *Drops mic, gets down from soapbox*
efcamachopmp - 4/5/2014, 12:20 PM
PAAAAAAAAASTO! :)
efcamachopmp - 4/5/2014, 1:03 PM
@sauronsBane1 good points, but I have to disagree that it is the only way to make those scenes look better. Take films like The Raid: Redemption, The Protector, Ong Bak, etc. Asian films, the fight scenes are so visceral and impactful you wonder at some point how many people were hurt to produce such amazing fight scenes. However, the difference is that most of the people on the screen did their own stuns and fighting.

Here the fighting is mostly done by doubles and the shaky-cam is utilized to help the editing maintain the illusion of who is actually fighting. I can agree there are films that use the shaky-cam and quick cuts to perfection. The Bourne films are among them as you suggested. But It drove me nuts on many scenes where we didn't need it in every cut. Varied camera angles, wider shots, and quick cuts from stationary cams would have worked beautifully. I'm pretty sure GSP did all his fighting...

It drove me nuts, but the character pieces in the film were the real highlight.
Kissarmy - 4/6/2014, 9:11 PM
I personally loved the film (aside from the shaky-cam). It really helped propel the Marvel Universe to new leaps. With the twist of HYDRA taking over SHEILD, Nick Fury being completely out of the grid, and creating new purpose for Captain America. The problem with Ironman 3 and Thor 2 was that it did not affect the Marvel continuum (unless you count a few episodes of Agents of Shield). Looking forward to seeing the new episode, and see how Coulson and his team is affected.
WYLEEJAY - 4/6/2014, 10:44 PM
I also dont care for shaky cam. At the beginning of the movie, when Steve got on the ship and started taking down the mercs, I remember thinking that I was gonna be annoyed when I realized that was the route they were gonna take for the action. I was wrong. It was done right. I dont know if I just adjusted quickly, or if it really wasn't that shaky. Cause I could keep track of what was going on. It definitely helped make the scenes more intense.

This movie was a game changer for the MCU. As much as I like both Iron Man 3 and Thor TDW, they didn't really shake up the MCU much. SHIELD was obviously too distracted with their own problems to help with the kidnapping of the POTUS. Most of Thor TDW took place on Asgard. We have yet to see the consequences of Loki sitting on the throne over the nine realms. They were self contained movies that developed their characters well. Captain America TWS will change things drastically for the rest of the MCU. I cant wait for tuesdays episode of Agents of Shield. What happens to these people now that Shield has disbanded? Do THEY stay active underground? Is this why Fury wanted Coulson to have his own team to do their own missions? Is it because he trusts Coulson to do the right thing? So many questions.
thefrattycomicbookguy - 4/7/2014, 12:32 AM
Awesome review! I really didn't mind the shakey cam, but I guess I was too involved to really be distracted by it. Also, agree entirely on the "laying out of the future" comments. Keep it up!
batmanvsuperman - 4/7/2014, 1:12 AM
This movie was awesome
Dunejedi - 4/7/2014, 1:15 AM
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!!!!

"you called me sweetheart".
Xandera - 4/7/2014, 2:56 AM
Your write up is excellent. Some may argue that you're being TOO fussy with some of these points,but they are valid points... So its all good. I too hope there is some footage of retreiving the Falcon suit in an extended/director's cut. Heck! Id settle for a deleted scene.
Well done!
DoubleD - 4/7/2014, 4:21 AM
I thought Shaky Cam worked well in this movie. First it was not really shaky like a lot of movies. It was smooth going side to side.


AAA+++ Movie. Going to go see it on IMAX 3D today for a second viewing 5 out of 5 stars for me. Up there with Avengers
Gary8264 - 4/7/2014, 5:19 AM
I loved the movie, and thought the directors and actors nailed it.
Concernin' Falcon's suit, it was much better that they didn' show the retrieval of the suit, for the simple reason that the scene where Widow chucks Sitwell off the buildin' wouldn' of been as excitin'. Falcon flyin' him back up and droppin' him on the roof was cooler than hell, especially since it wasn' expected (least not by me).
GodzillaKart - 4/7/2014, 7:46 AM
Fantastic review. I agree with just about everything you said. The use of shaky cam is a huge blot on an otherwise fantastic film.
thefrattycomicbookguy - 4/7/2014, 8:22 AM
@Gary8264 I didn't either, I was expecting that to be a scene. I like how they cut right past the necessary to be said but not seen retrieval of the suit. Really kept the flow going.

Also, its been too long since I've read Civil War since I missed that those scenes were purposely similar. I recognized Wanda with the blocks, but that's a little more iconic to her character overall I guess.
GodzillaKart - 4/7/2014, 8:58 AM
@SauronsBANE1: But then they went ahead and used shaky cam during scenes like breakfast at falcon's apartment. That is just distracting as hell.
akidnamedcesar - 4/7/2014, 9:10 AM
Great review. I enjoyed the film quite a bit more than I thought I would. The MCU redeemed itself with this after IM3.
Alexandre - 4/7/2014, 10:50 AM
^
Agreed
JayTopStix - 4/7/2014, 10:53 AM
I thought it was very mediocre.There is something in Cap movies that make them completely ridiculous to me.
Anyway, good to hear people like it, however I was so hyped, it ended being a big disappointment for me. I'll take Thor 2 and IM3 over this one any day.
TheDemonsHead - 4/7/2014, 11:05 AM
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GodzillaKart - 4/7/2014, 11:31 AM
@TheDemonsHead: Have you seen it?
CharacterAssassin - 4/7/2014, 11:46 AM
Fantastic movie.
Mercwitham0uth - 4/7/2014, 12:21 PM
This movie makes me rock hard just thinking about it.
efcamachopmp - 4/7/2014, 1:26 PM
@JayTopStix "I thought it was very mediocre.There is something in Cap movies that make them completely ridiculous to me.
Anyway, good to hear people like it, however I was so hyped, it ended being a big disappointment for me. I'll take Thor 2 and IM3 over this one any day."

Do you think partially the hype may have ruined it? If you hadn't seen anything prior to the movie, with the exception of perhaps a TV spot. Do you think you might have enjoyed it more?

@TheDemonsHead Did you watch it?
JayTopStix - 4/7/2014, 2:12 PM
@efcamachopmp I centainly might. My wife was completely shocked that Bucky was WS, even though I had told her before (LOL I guess she does not care about my nerdy stuff as much).
Even so, I am now convinced Evans in not a very good drama actor. I still like like him better as Torch or the role he had in Push. ALso I hated Cap 1, so that might have played a part here too. The movie is very entertaining and fast paced that a lot of things slip by but after you recall them, they seemed silly in the grand MCU that has been put on previously by Avengers.
Jimmyquickfingers - 4/7/2014, 2:43 PM
I think TheDemonshead liked it too.






HAIL HYDRA
UltimateHunt - 4/7/2014, 2:50 PM
Shaky cam was use properly in this film. Remind me of how well use in the Bourne movies.
Good review Macho-Camacho--->sorry I had to, 1st person that pop in my head lol
Brainiac13 - 4/7/2014, 3:57 PM
Another great review. I hated the shaky cam as well. ..........MOS has the same problem. Overall the film was fantastic and one of the best CBM to date.

Being a Brit........he's not big here as Batman or Spiderman and but I've really started to warm to his character and his comics.

I'm reading Captain America and Falcon TPB and loved how they introduced Wanda as a love interest.......I hope they do a scene in A2 where they kiss and realise it's wrong.

:)

bropous - 4/8/2014, 5:39 AM
I cannot believe the filter on this site.

I was using a term similar to "snickering" in my post and it came out as "s[racial slur]ing". VERY odd.
bropous - 4/8/2014, 5:40 AM
Excellent review.

Agreed on the shaky cam. Don't care for shaky cam at all, but it did not stand out as a major flaw in this film for me.

I'm still at 5 out of 5 for this movie. Just was completely blown away.

And there were a few gasps in the theater when Bucky was revealed as the Winter Soldier, and some sniffles when Steve saw Peggy.

But two little teenaged bitches one row behind me behind me SNICKERING all through the movie made me want to throw them through the back of the theater. And they were with their family, which says a lot about how the little shits are being brought up. In every quiet scene, where you could hear a pin drop, the bitches were giggling and talking. Tore me out of the movie every quiet moment.

So, movie was fantastic. And audiences suck.

And I do hope that Guardians does not come with as much pre-exposure of the film as the myriad clips of Winter Soldier did. I think they could have kept much more under wraps and released maybe two previews and maybe three or so tv clips. FAR too much was given away early.
bropous - 4/8/2014, 5:56 AM
ef, the helicarriers had to ascend to 3,000ft to be able to fire that far because of curvature of the Earth. The guns are line-of-sight.
efcamachopmp - 4/8/2014, 6:27 AM
@Bropous I know that is what was intended, but that would still be impossible at that height to shoot the distance they were after.

The nerdy argument here is based solely on the concept. If it had indeed fired from 3000 feet over DC and hit targets as far as New York from that low altitude, it would not be possible.

But like I argued in the review it's an issue with 'State of Plot' not realistic scenarios. To shoot from the right altitude would make the fighting scenes outside of the helicarrier even less believable. It would also make the locations of the crashes (Triskellion) less likely. Which I should have mentioned in the review...
usafcapG - 4/8/2014, 8:18 AM
I think for Captain America 3, they are going to Kill off Captain America. Bucky Barnes will take over his responsibilities in the end and become new Captain America. Makes sense they introduced Crossbones and Sharon, and Chris Evan signed as Captain America character till the third movie. Follow the plot of "Death of Captain America" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Death_of_Captain_America
Read more at http://www.comicbookmovie.com/captain_america/captain_america_the_winter_soldier/news/?a=97636#gXxvJRpKfbQOSV5C.99
SFCamerica - 4/8/2014, 10:00 AM
I think it's funny that you believe anyone on this site knows what a country's GDP even means! Also, why couldn't they just shoot down the 3rd carrier once they controlled 1-2 of the others targeting systems?
SFCamerica - 4/8/2014, 10:02 AM
I definitely took notice to the shaky cam last night at my second viewing, wasn't nearly as noticeable the 1st time I watched it.
SFCamerica - 4/8/2014, 10:09 AM
And I mean no offense to the "greatest generation", but I'd take this generations ALL VOLUNTEER fighting force that has been fighting the longest war in our history any day. :)
efcamachopmp - 4/8/2014, 10:43 AM
@SFCamerica not to digress, I was in the service; what the boots on the ground have been dealing with these past 10 years is in no way at all comparable to WWII...

We took Iraq in 1-2 weeks...

We've been dealing with seek and destroy for the better part of this so called war. Troops dying during any conflict is always horrible, but WWII was blood, guts, sweat, freezing cold, no protection, virtually no ammunition, hold the line with your teeth and rocks...

While many of my friends went career throughout the services and I have nothing but respect for them. I also respect you have a trust for our boys in uniform now and that is great. But there is no comparison to what our current collective war machine went through, accomplished, and was tasked for during the last decade with the level of technology and 1st world ability versus what the greatest generation went through without...no comparison what-so-ever.
Kendospawn - 4/8/2014, 3:31 PM
"I'd also argue that there was no mention of Coulson, let alone any mention of the other agents from the TV series. I think that was a sore misrepresentation of this continuity concept."

Principle photography on Captain America: The Winter Soldier was finished in April 2013 and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was not even ordered until May 10th 2013. There was no way the writers of CA:TWS could have foreseen the tv show being a guarantee to the point where they could/would include a shout out to the show. Also, agent Sitwell was in the movie and has been in the tv show several times, so there was mention of an agent from the tv series. If you're going to be nitpicky at least pick actual nits.

Your ever lovin' Kendospawn
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