Captain America: The Winter Soldier
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Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo
Running time: 2:16
Rated: PG-13; intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout. He’s a man out of time in an age of deception.
He’s a blast from a more honest past, a guy who cannot tell a lie. Upright and forthright to the core, he’s struggling to cope with a world rife with double-dealing, hidden agendas and shady conspiracies.
“Don’t trust anyone,” he’s told, and even the man offering that advice must be viewed with suspicion.
The time-displaced guy is Captain America, and in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” it’s his struggle to understand and survive in a moral universe where conventional morality no longer holds sway that gives the picture significantly more substance than is usually found in a comic book adaptation.
In the sequel to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and follow to 2012’s megablockbuster mash-up from the Marvel Universe, “The Avengers,” Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is still trying to adjust to the 21st century after having been deep frozen for close to 70 years. This time around he’s troubled by the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D., the secretive organization that is supposed to be the bane of the world’s nastiest evildoers, seems to be a font of evildoing itself. As a S.H.I.E.L.D. member in good standing, that troubles the Captain a whole heck of a lot.
His qualms emerge early when S.H.I.E.L.D.’s head honcho, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, radiating angry authority), gives him the lowdown on the organization’s retooled mission statement: S.H.I.E.L.D. is going to be getting a whole lot more proactive in going after baddies, using a powerful array of brand-new weapons (three humongous flying aircraft carriers — helicarriers — chief among them) to pound troublemakers to rubble before they become truly troublesome. Basically, it’s a “shoot first, ask questions later” scenario that Fury sketches out. The goal is to safeguard a free society.
Captain America is not down with that program at all. “This isn’t freedom. This is fear,” he tells his mentor. Thus does the good-guy morality of the Greatest Generation come into conflict with the mind-set of the era of the war on terror.
In his third outing as the Captain, Evans seems totally comfortable in the role. He manages to convey his character’s goodness without making him seem like a self-righteous stiff. There’s an ease in his performance, and a sense of humor as well, that makes him very appealing.
Deeper layers of skullduggery are gradually revealed, and Cap and Fury and the seductive Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are soon on the run from their compatriots from S.H.I.E.L.D. “Everyone we know is trying to kill us,” the Black Widow remarks as the bullets fly. What’s a superhero to do?
Fight back, in a series of powerfully staged action sequences mounted by the directing team of brothers Anthony and Joe Russo. These scenes range from the intimate — see Cap beat down a whole bunch of baddies in a cramped elevator — to the sprawling, involving a flotilla of helicarriers, guns blazing over Washington, D.C. The body count is sky high.
A new Avenger, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), a man with a rocket-propelled flight suit that actually flies — with wings! — is introduced to help Cap and friends fight back.
There’s a superbad bad guy in the mix, the seemingly bulletproof Winter Soldier of the title.
And most intriguing of all is a high-level bureaucrat played by Robert Redford with a silken smoothness edged with a subtle sense of danger. Hidden agendas are well-concealed in this guy.