Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the latest in the seemingly never-ending Marvel Universe series, is more of a political thriller than a superhero movie, but it is a blast nonetheless. With a plot “ripped from the headlines,” it takes a dim view of government surveillance, and has a Hollywood legend playing his first villain. It has great action–including superb car chases and terrific fight choreography–and typical comic book quips.
The film has Cap (Chris Evans) still adjusting to life after being frozen for sixty plus years (he’s made a list of things he needs to check out, ranging from Star Wars to Nirvana). We start out with Cap and Black Widow (a glamorous and sly Scarlett Johansson) taking on pirates on a freighter. Johansson steals a thumb drive, and eventually Cap learns from the director of SHIELD (Samuel L. Jackson) that an Operation Insight is ready to launch. This operation will send up three advanced heli-carriers that will spy on people, including Americans, and eradicate them before they have a chance to do anything bad.
Cap, being a good civil libertarian, immediately objects. The project is the baby of Robert Redford, as the Secretary of some sort of international peace project. Am I really spoiling anything to reveal that Redford has darker motives?
Anyway, Captain America and The Black Widow have to go underground after a shocking murder (but, as a Marvel writer once told me, remember that with Marvel, no one stays dead except Uncle Ben) and the two, along with a new ally, Anthony Mackie, team up to stop Redford and his associated baddies.
The biggest baddie is the title character, a relentless killer with a metal arm. To add a further wrinkle, once his mask comes loose Cap realizes they’ve met before.
So that’s the plot, which is involved but easy to follow, and takes a direct slap at the NSA, and upright liberals will nod in righteous agreement. There is also an affection for vets, as Mackie plays one back from Iraq who is assisting other vets. He ends up being Falcon, who was Cap’s sidekick in the comic books in the ’70s, but here has a different reason for being called that (there is no actual bird, as there was in the comics).
I had a lot of fun with this. The film doesn’t drag, and even when it has cliches, such as when a villain, who has been uploaded into an old computer, reveals the whole conspiracy, I kind of grinned at the absurdity of it. The chemistry between Evans and Johansson worked, and Jackson, who’s Nick Fury usually steps into these films for five minutes for exposition and then leaves, is given a lot to do, including a whiz-bang sequence in which he comes under fire in a heavily-armored SUV. The directors are Anthony and Joe Russo, and they slow an aplomb for action films.
Note: the requisite teaser after the credits introduces two new characters who will appear in the next Avengers film. In the comics, they are the children of Magneto, who is now a character with a different studio, so I don’t know how this parentage will be handled. Also, make sure you take notice of an epitaph on a tombstone near the end of the film. It has the best inside joke of the movie.
My grade for Captain America: The Winter Soldier: B+.