The Winter Soldier... Crisply Delivered Action

Marvel Universe scores again with Captain America the Winter Soldier! This was a  satisfying plot with edge-of-the-seat action and believable characters. You can almost see the Disney executives gleefully rubbing their hands together as the box office receipts pile up. Cha-ching!

It’s been two years since the Chitauri New York invasion and Steve Rogers a.k.a Captain America (a.k.a Chris Evans) is soldiering in various covert missions as one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s operatives. He is still adapting to a world that has advanced seventy years since he defrosted; a world where almost everyone he knew is dead and Apple-Pie America has disappeared leaving him feeling disconnected. It isn’t long before he is catapulted dead center of a secretive scheme for world domination spearheaded by non-other than the sinister organization he fought in the 1940’s - HYDRA.

Scarlet Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson reprise their previous roles, and the starring cast is rounded out by some fascinating new additions, (but we’ll get to them later). Chris Evans, now comfortable in his super hero persona reminds us again why we like Captain America. He gives us just enough of the thoroughbred nobleness before it spills over into sappiness. He is the kind of hero you want to date your daughter, who embodies integrity, and does the right thing simply because it is the right thing. I liked the way the film fleshed out Steve Roger’s character beyond a two dimensional caricature. Rogers’ even has some surprisingly tender scenes where you feel his character’s sense of loss and yearning for the ideals of a long-lost era.

The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is one of my favorite Marvel characters because she’s a composite of the spy, the strategist, and a sarcastic badass fighter who also rocks out that skin-hugging sit-down-and-shut-up suit. She’s always unpredictable and that is what keeps her so interesting in the story. I remember there was some initial negative feedback when she was cast for the iconic part in Iron Man 2, but Johannson has proven she's got the goods to strut her stuff with the best of them.

There were three exciting new additions to this Marvel banquet, the Winter Warrior cunningly played by Sebastian Stan (Once Upon a Time), Anthony Mackie (The Fifth Estate), and the legendary Robert Redford (Lions for Lambs). Stan plays a genetically modified assassin who faces off with Captain America. The Winter Warrior is mysterious and deadly -  a one-man destroyer and an impressive match for Captain America. Yet, he is not all he appears to be, and is actually part of a larger schematic that produces some unexpected story twists. Robert Redford was an interesting choice to play Alexandra Pierce because his 40-plus year film career has mostly revolved around more substantive material. However, it was a good choice; Redford played Pierce as a man at ease with unbridled ambition, and calculated tyranny who’s content to allow any means to justify the end.
Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson

The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) was a refreshing addition to the lineup. This former soldier, Sam Wilson develops a camaraderie with Steve Rogers due to their common background as soldiers. Sam does not reveal his full bag of tricks until he’s drawn into the mission through their friendship where their combined skills make for a formidable team and some fast track entertainment.

These days it’s just not enough to turn out an action film with handsome actors and great CGI – it’s got to have a good plot or it suffers a quick box office death (Think 47 Rohan). The writers could so easily have thrown out just another homage to the super hero genre to ride on the ultra-successful Avenger’s coat tails. But, instead they took the trouble of telling a real story that tied seamlessly into the original 2011 Captain America release. It radiated as an espionage/spy thriller/action film with enough twists and wild-card comedy to keep you glued to the seat. (I didn’t even miss Tony Stark).  This was no CGI-driven gratuitous-action film, but an intelligent character and plot driven story with a steady pace that fleshed out the characters and made sense of the exhilarating action sequences. Captain America the Winter Soldier was crisp, it was fun, and a clever cinematic excursion that should satisfy the most discriminating Marvel-maniacs. 

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