The year America entered World War II authors Joe Simon and Jack Kirby wrote the story of young fine arts student who was not allowed to join the US army on account of his weak physical condition. Instead, he entered an experimental program where he was enhanced to the peak of physical human perfection. Given the codename “Captain America”, and sometimes called the “Sentinel of Liberty”, Steven Rogers fought against the Axis powers in the Marvel comics with his teenage sidekick Bucky Barnes as they countered the attacks of a secret Natzi party called Hydra. The climax of Steve Rogers’ story was when he and Bucky went missing in action. Steve was eventually found, but Bucky was presumed dead.
In 2005, Marvel comics writer Ed Brubaker brought Bucky Barnes back into the story. It turns out Bucky didn’t die, but was captured by Hydra, brainwashed, and used as an assassin with the codename Winter Soldier.
The name “Winter Soldier” is in reference to a quote from the book Common Sense by Founding Father Thomas Paine. In it, Paine said “These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country”. So a Winter Soldier is someone who doesn’t back down, no matter what.
In 2014 the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released. In it, Captain America and a few others fight the the followers of Hydra who have infiltrated the US government. Cap also faces the Winter Soldier, his long lost friend, who is being used by Hydra.
One of the cool things about the movie Winter Soldier, is that, besides having an awesome cast and coolest, harshly beautiful, music and most epic, perfectly organized, fight scenes ever, the movie isn’t about who wins or is the best fighter, it’s about opposing viewpoints. Because Cap isn’t fighting a person, he’s fighting ideas.
If you take the movie’s plot and break it down into very simple form, you would see Captain America fighting the Winter Soldier. And it would be easy to label Captain America as the Good Guy and the Winter Soldier as the Bad Guy, but those labels wouldn’t be accurate because the Winter Soldier isn’t a Bad Guy. He’s a brain-washed, memory-wiped tool used by Hydra. This setup forces you to look beyond Good Guys and Bad Guys to what’s right and wrong.
Captain America carries a shield as his only weapon because he fights to protect. He’s called the "Sentinel of Liberty" because he fights to protect liberty. In the movie Winter Soldier Cap fights to protect liberty from the punishment before crime system of Hydra that does whatever appears necessary to achieve so-called security. The Winter Soldier himself is an example of what the tyranny of Hydra creates. When Cap fights the Winter Soldier, it’s like he’s fighting the thought system of Hydra. It’s cool the way comics embody ideological discussions into fist fights.
As Cap and the Winter Soldier fight, the sight of Steve begins to spark memories for the Winter Soldier, Bucky. He begins to have a sense of himself. Before he was empty, his paradigm was direct order and immediate execution but now, as he remembers his past, he begins to question those commands. And as Bucky begins to remember and question Hydra’s commands it’s symbolic of the defeat of the ideas Cap was fighting.
As Cap says to Spider-Man in the comics, “Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is right [...] when the whole world tells you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of Truth and tell the whole world, no, you move.”