CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER
Author: J.A. Hyde
April 3, 2014

SYNOPSIS: After the cataclysmic events in New York with The Avengers, Marvel's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, living quietly in Washington, D.C. and trying to adjust to the modern world. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes embroiled in a web of intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk. Joining forces with the Black Widow, Captain America struggles to expose the ever-widening conspiracy while fighting off professional assassins sent to silence him at every turn. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow enlist the help of a new ally, the Falcon. However, they soon find themselves up against an unexpected and formidable enemy -- the Winter Soldier.

Captain America to the rescue!

Okay, okay, you know he’ll save the day going in, but it’s how and with whom that makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier a better film than the first film that introduced the Marvel character. S.H.I.E.L.D encounters and weathers the most serious attack on it since its formation after WWII. Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) advice to Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) – “Don’t trust anyone” – turns out to be the best way to approach this film. The lines between who’s good and who’s evil are sometimes blurred, and this will keep audiences on their toes.

As the story begins, Steve Rogers and his team – including Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) - rescue a S.H.I.E.L.D ship captured by pirates. Rogers unexpectedly catches Romanoff uploading information onto a flash drive. Not included in his mission objectives, his first trust issue arises when she refuses to explain her actions. The info on it appears to place top S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury in danger as he is attacked by a new and deadly menace, super assassin The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Wait a minute! Didn’t Stan portray Steve Roger’s childhood buddy, Bucky Barnes, in the first film? He did, and how he re-emerges, so alarmingly, in the current one is part of the film’s appeal.

The most welcome addition to Roger’s allies is Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), a recovery-group leading veteran who turns out to have a valuable secret skill. Mackie, always a reliable performer, does a fine job, and adds some much-needed humor – as well as some really cool action sequences, to the story. Also new to the narrative are Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce, a top S.H.I.E.L.D leader with a secret, Emily VanCamp, as S.H.I.E.L.D Agent 13, and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill.

In their attempts to discover who – or what – is threatening S.H.I.E.L.D’s attempts to protect the world’s population, and perhaps the very existence of S.H.I.E.L.D, Rogers and his allies learn that the real enemy is HYDRA, a hold-over of Nazi philosophy that has secretly co-existed with S.H.I.E.L.D since WWII. An eerie computerized image of Nazi scientist Dr. Armin Zola (Toby Jones) provides an explanation of HYDRA’s motive. What is it? Why, to take over the world – what else? You’ll have to see the film to discover how this will take place, but I’ll just say that many exciting action sequences and desperate struggles ensue.

The very likeable Chris Evans does an admirable job of portraying the fresh-faced Captain America, even if his impassioned, old-fashioned patriotism sometimes drew a cynical chuckle or two from the preview audience. Samuel L. Jackson growls his way effectively through his role as Nick Fury, while Robert Redford provides a quietly ominous counterpart as Alexander Pierce. Scarlett Johansson brings just the right amount of allure and mystery to her Black Widow character.

So, what are my beefs with the film? It still inexplicably drags a bit as the first film did. I believe it could have been edited to provide a more consistent pace for the narrative. The one-on-one fight sequences are over-choreographed – although I do admire Chris Evans for doing his own stunt-work. I just don’t want to be able to see the choreography. If you’re a young fan who aspires to be an actor in action films, you’d better learn to do somersaults – both frontward and backward…

Just sayin’. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: A-


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