Captain America: The Winter Soldier,
directed by Joe & Anthony Russo
(Walt Disney, 2014)

Captain America: The First Avenger placed Cap within his proper context as a Superman-esque hero, covered with the flag and representing America at its peak. It was far more nostalgic and Cap was in his element. Now, as S.H.I.E.L.D.'s operative in its ever-expanding espionage operations, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is questioning what his country has become. After he is suspected of foul play in an attack on Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and attacked by a mysterious assailant whose powers match his own, Cap goes on the offensive with the help of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a new hero, Falcon (Anthony Mackie).

It's a smart, action-packed thriller that skillfully transports Cap out of his milieu and away from his naive, antiquated notions of good and evil, to the next level.

In spite of his regular gigs with fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanov/Black Widow, Rogers is feeling distinctly uneasy and left behind. Although he's improving as a fighter and soaking up the new world rules with ease, he doesn't necessarily recognize the world in which he lives. Nor does he care for covert missions. He soon realizes that he isn't being told everything. After Fury is assaulted by a supervillain with a lethal bionic arm, Cap escapes arrest with the help of Widow and attempts to stop their former employers from trying to create a 1984-like dystopia. There's a lot in here about political and personal trust. Sometimes it takes an uncomplicated man to sense when things are going in the wrong direction.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed episodes of Community (Danny Pudi/Abed makes a cameo) and Arrested Development, are more than credible action directors, unafraid to take chances with growing Cap's character or setting up the movie to flex some big, plot-development muscles crucial to the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie. There are lots of action set pieces, all supported by a fairly complex, layered plot that gets a bit stilted in the third act but finishes up well. Evans and Johansson have marvelous chemistry as workmates and friends who egg each other on but who are loyal to one another and to Fury. They understand one another as no one else does.

There's some serious emotional and political issues in a movie that could have coasted on being an action oriented, pivotal tie-in to another movie but the Russos, drawing on Captain America writer Ed Brubaker's revamp, go darker and more serious, with the result that Cap shines out as a true hero in a morally gray world.

review by
Mary Harvey

10 May 2014

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