Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: April 4, 2014 Released by: Walt Disney Pictures
With some welcome sure-handed, ethical recalibration into the structuring of thrillers of yesteryear, a new Marvel superhero saga continues. At least before the "anti-hero"Guardians of the Galaxy and their next big assembling or decided reunion in the Age of Ultron. Where outrageously engaging mayhem from possible shared potential catastrophes can appease a developing mythology in large-scaled episodic, if less truly suspenseful fashion.
A not so standalone (though spooling well enough into Hulk, The Avengers, Thor and Iron Man) Captain America: The Winter Soldier stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Sebastian Stan and proves to be an inviting, even topical contrast to the origin story or The First Avenger which felt like a lively vintage serial of the 'Indiana Jones' variety. It's still rousing, witty, and thoughtful enough to leave the viewer, perhaps even a few of the uninitiated of the studio's increasing canon, wanting more. While having more than its share of fan-friendly references and the requisite post-credits sting of a teaser for what is to come.
Now in the throes of the current military industrial complex, an adjustment or thawing out to life in the 21st Century for Steve Rogers (Evans) has him in the U.S. Capitol under the auspices of S.H.I.E.L.D. eye-patched Col. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, now the current spokesman for those 'Capitol One' ads). Fury reports to the organizational head Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford of All is Lost) who plans an inordinate display of power.
Co-directors Anthony and Joe Russo maneuver the resonant tale with appealing characters and well-choreographed action, if less on the CGI overload as some of the other Marvel features have demonstrated. When the enigmatic, bionic-armed titular agent assailant (spoiler alert as those who remember a colleague from the 1940s piece as played by a sultry Stan) strikes, S.H.I.E.L.D is compromised by widespread conspiracy where a deadly scheme could eliminate multitudes of innocents.
So, Capt. America must join forces with Natasha/Black Widow (Johansson of Her and Don Jon), as well as a winged, mechanical colleague Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon (Anthony Mackie, proving to be a fine addition) to expose a vicious plot as phobias around national security carry a certain amount of gravitas and realism. The breathtaking sequences include a D.C. chase and an aerial dogfight of sorts while the script has more than its share of bright, amusing touches to resonant with the current zeitgeist and give the actors many opportunities to flourish.
Johansson, in particular, is more than a mysterious, alluringly tightly clad figure evincing subtle physicality and tenor, especially opposite Evans (with his share of good one-liners) who is a nice fulcrum into the narrative shades blending courage and anxiety into someone truly trustworthy when difficult decisions come to the fore. Jackson's Fury and especially Redford's cast-against-type obsequious Pierce are resourceful enough in their support as the latter's presence recalls the aura of earlier thrillers like Three Days of the Condor even with new dangerous devices at the disposal of those always up against a shadowy, stalwart foe in HYDRA revealing a new set of Bourne-like circumstances. THE WINTER SOLDIER with excitement and storytelling finds a harmless, organic immediacy with a greater subtext for its cast even if the escalating stakes and jeopardy are just procrastinating to impress once again.
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