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.
He’s Captain America, and it’s this struggle — to survive in a universe where conventional morality no longer holds sway — that gives “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” a significantly higher quotient of substance than is usually found in a comic-book adaptation.
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In the sequel to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” and follow-on to 2012’s megablockbuster mash-up from the Marvel Universe, “The Avengers,” Steve Rogers — aka Captain America (Chris Evans) — is still trying to adjust to the 21st century after having been deep frozen for nearly 70 years.
This time around he’s troubled 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 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: to get a whole lot more proactive in going after baddies, using powerful 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.
Cap 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 mindset 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 that makes him very appealing.
Deeper layers of skulduggery are gradually revealed, and Cap and Fury and the seductive Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are soon on the run. “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 — with wings that flap! — 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 (Sebastian Stan).
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.
Soren Andersen: email@example.com