Captain America: Winter Soldier
The Captain and Natasha
In the saga’s latest chapter, Captain America: Winter Soldier, mild mannered Steve Rogers (aka the Captain) is chilling in Washington, D.C., jogging around the National Mall when someone texts MISSION ALERT. It’s off to the Indian Ocean with Natasha Romanoff (aka The Black Widow) to rescue a valuable cargo from French pirates (French pirates?). They retake the vessel with maximum mayhem and little trouble, but this high-seas adventure is only the first step into a world where no one is what they seem. Without sounding the spoiler alarm (even if the fans already know the story by heart), the agency Captain America and his Russian colleague work for, S.H.I.E.L.D., has been compromised by HYDRA, a network of unredeemed Nazis (and eager neo-Nazis) planning a new New World Order.
Chris Evans returns as Captain America, the muscular “super soldier” capable of bursting through steel doors in a single bound. For most of this movie, he dispenses with his kinky leather mask and patriotic body suit, but holds tight to his bullet-deflecting shield. The Captain is as humorless a cartoon character as imaginable, but the screenplay garners the odd chuckle from his anachronisms. A World War II GI reanimated and grappling with the 21st century, he’s an honest Joe who rides a Harley, so we know he’s cool. Scarlett Johansson, back as The Black Widow, gets the better lines. She’s cynical, enigmatic, wired to the moment and harder to shock (though even she’s surprised by the duplicity they must confront). The Captain picks up a sidekick along the way, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), an ex-paratrooper with a set of wings allowing him to soar.
About that supervillain: The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) keeps his leather mask on for most of the movie and sports a metal arm suitable for ripping doors from their hinges. He has the strength to fight Captain America to a draw, but as the story unwinds, he seems no more than a foot soldier in a vast campaign to alter the world. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s grim-faced chief, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), may or may not be a traitor, and World Security Council Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is a diplomat casting a sinister shadow. The plot creaks at the hinges, but the message is that HYDRA’s plan for world domination involves creating havoc on a huge scale and then offering people the choice of security over freedom. Hints of post-911 overreach, WikiLeaks and the power of even a sleepy press find their way into the screenplay.
But let’s face it: havoc is the hallmark of this franchise, and the destruction isn’t limited to the kickboxing, head-butting, X-treme bouts between heroes and villains. Even the good guys feel licensed to run traffic off the road and spray streets full of bystanders with machine gun fire. The death toll must be high in those scenes, but the carnage is kept outside the frame. All we see are heroes outrunning exploding fireballs and ducking barrages of bullets, only to rise again with both barrels blazing.
TAGS: Captain America: Winter Soldier, David Luhrssen, Marvel Comics, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford