Captain America: The Winter Soldier

…written by Christopher Marcus and Stephen McFeely, based on an Ed Brubaker story; directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo; starring Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Robert Redford.

These Marvel movies just keep hitting the target.  Thor – The Dark World was excellent, X-Men – Days of Futures Past looks fantastic based on the trailers, and we’re optimistic for the next Spider-man movie this summer as well.  The only one we’ve panned of late was Iron Man 3 (because, gah.)  So with the the great early buzz, we were anticipating Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and we weren’t disappointed.  This is another great super hero movie.

It’s a different kind of super hero movie, though.  Based on comics by Ed Brubaker, the story involves serpentine conspiracies and secrets and healthy mistrust of those in power.  Pretty much par for the course with Hollywood’s take on the espionage game.  This movie features Cap and Black Widow as Shield’s two prime field agents, chasing down bad guys and running ops for Nick Fury.  When one of these ops goes sideways, Cap gets suspicious of Fury’s motives and goals.  He becomes even more concerned when Fury shows him the strategic plan to launch three additional heli-carriers capable of linking up with surveillance satellites and securing Shield’s military dominance in the world.

But Fury has concerns as well.  He’s noticed something anomalous, a security breach, and confides in the Chief of Allied Defense, Alexander Pierce (Redford).  About this time, the Winter Soldier shows up and takes a crack at Fury.  Black Widow tells Cap about the Winter Soldier: a legendary KGB assassin rumored to have conducted the most dangerous and sensitive assignments for over 50 years.

Soon Cap and Black Widow find themselves on the run and attempting to track down the security breach, which leads them to some pretty horrifying revelations.  It turns out, Hydra survived World War II and has extended its reach in secret.  The goal of world domination remains the same, but the method has changed.  Hydra will control the masses by offering ‘security’.  Using a very Minority Report methodology, they have an algorithm that can assess and predict behavior based on all the massive data collected on people over the years.  And being Hydra, their solution is to kill anyone with bad behavior predictors who could end up as criminals or threats.  Just target and kill about 20 million folks – that’s all.  They just need the weapons -about to be provided by Shield’s three new heli-carriers.

Cap enlists the aid of a new friend, Afghanistan veteran, Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, and with Black Widow they set out to save the day.  It’s Marvel mayhem as we’ve come to expect.  Plenty of slick fight choreography, death defying stunts, huge disasters and explosions – all of it realistic on the edge of the fantastic, which is what you want in your comic book movies.

Chris Evans is once again strong as Captain America.  He has the All-American quality, but also the humility and that lingering sense of displacement and wonder you’d expect of someone who recently found himself 60 years in the future.  Two scenes I particularly enjoyed – character scenes – the elevator scene in which Cap figures out they’re about to try to take him down, and the bedside scene with his old WWII girlfriend, now suffering from dementia.

We also enjoyed Anthony Mackie’s take on Falcon, and Scarlett Johansson has a lot more to do in this film than look fine in her jumpsuit (I still say Black Widow isn’t really an Avenger, though).  The rest of the cast rounds out very nicely.

If we have complaints, they would be that the gritty plot and massive amounts of gun-play made this movie less than kid friendly.  I put it more in the realm of Man of Steel and Dark Knight in that respect (i.e not taking the kids) as opposed to Avengers.  Also, slight annoyance with the manner in which the conspiracy plays out and the subtext of who’s responsible.  And while the idea of the Winter Soldier character is solid, and certainly worked well in the more episodic comic book format, it seems a little rushed and forced in this film.

Upon final analysis, though, the Russo brothers have made an excellent movie that fits nicely into the evolving Marvel Universe of films.  They did this with Captain America – a challenging character for whom it would be easy to get preachy, overly political, and just plain tedious.  That doesn’t happen here.  If you’ve enjoyed most of the other Marvel movies, this one won’t disappoint.


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