Chris Evans Finally Fills Cap’s Boots In “Winter Soldier”

In Marvel’s latest installment of the studio’s endless arsenal of super-hero flicks, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finally catches up with the leader of the Avengers, Steve Rogers/Captain America, played by Chris Evans. Since aliens invaded New York in the 2012’s acclaimed Avengers ensemble, we’ve seen how two other marquee members have coped with intergalactic trauma: Tony Stark battled anxiety in 2013’s “Iron Man 3,” and God of Thunder, Thor had some Asgardian house-cleaning to take care of in his second feature film. Cap’s first movie came out three years ago, so it’s been a while since we’ve had quality time with America’s super-soldier. In this super-spy thriller, Rogers finally gets to explain what it’s like to be born in 1918, fight in World War II and live in the 21st century.

Thanks to Anthony and Joe Russo’s directing and Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay, “Winter Soldier” is Marvel’s best job of story telling yet. Cap is 95, but has the body and fighting ability of a twenty-three year old, Olympian thanks to the super soldier serum the secret government agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. applied to him to defeat the Nazis and their super human division, Hydra. Cap has missed out on a lot, (being trapped in an ice cube and all) and keeps a notepad of things that people recommends he should try, like Thai food and Nirvana. S.H.I.E.L.D. “pilot” (it’s not a jet), Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackey) tells Cap Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man LP is a must. Cap takes note.

Despite being freed from frozen animation, our hero doesn’t feel all that liberated. Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) sends him and Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) on covert missions around the globe, keeping complete motives of the mission close to the chest, much to the chagrin of Cap. But then again, what else is there for Rogers to do? “You do anything fun Saturday night?” Natasha asks in an attempt at espionage water-cooler talk. “Well, all the guys in my barbershop quartet are dead. So no, not really.” Cap replies, before parachuting out of a helicopter without a parachute. Where Cap thinks he’s on a rescue mission, Fury and Romanoff are really concerned with intel. Cap’s anger continues to grow when Fury reveals to him the S.H.I.E.L.D. version of drones, built to catch the bad guys before they can do any damage. Cap isn’t fond of these NSA-like tactics. “This isn't freedom,” he sternly objects. “This is fear.” The parallel to the issues surrounding privacy in the United States are a bit on the nose but at last, the country-loving, but ethics-driven soldier comic book fans have known and loved for years is fleshed out fully on the big screen.

If you aren’t familiar with the comic books, Cap has gone rogue of sorts on more than one occasion, disobeying command and banding together his own team when he felt the powers at be of the nation were no longer concerned with doing the right thing. This film is no different. Evans does an outstanding job as Captain America, portraying a man torn between doing what he feels is right in his heart and following orders for the country he loves. S.H.I.E.L.D. becomes compromised by a new generation of Hydra followers (led by a Alexander Pierce, who is a natural comic-book villain) and Cap and Natasha must go on the run from them and their deadly assassin, The Winter Soldier, who is Cap’s best friend from the war, Bucky (Sebastian Stan). Bucky was frozen too, but he was brainwashed by the Russian army, and transformed into a metal-armed killing machine.

Bucky had a lot more lines in Cap’s first film, but his demeanor, as a silent, tunnel-visioned assassin is superb. Cap has an assassin on his side, too, in Romanoff. As the Black Widow, Scarlett Johansson almost steals every scene she’s in, either with her acrobatic combat moves, or her on-the-mark delivery, “Was that your first kiss since 1945?” She teases Cap after planting one on him. And let’s not forget the amazing Samuel L. Jackson, who is the uncompromising Nick Fury in all of his eye patch, black trench-coat bad-assery.

Like all super hero films, the action scenes are bountiful, however “Winter Soldier” is the first Marvel film to go toe-to-toe with DC’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” in terms of cinematography and character development. There is an even balance between dialogue, humor, and all out destruction. “Winter Soldier” feels like a Bond movie at times, with all of the covert-government conspiracies and gadgets used, and in other sequences, it feels like a heartfelt drama, especially when Rogers visits his “special girl,” Peggy (Hayley Atwell) who unlike Cap, is dealing with old age differently.

In the end, this film delivers on all cylinders. “The Avengers” is widely considered to be the best super hero film yet, but Captain America has proved that he can stand on his own here. 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” was a necessary introduction into the World War II era where Cap earned his shield, but “Winter Soldier” is leaps and bounds ahead of it’s predecessor because Captain America stops taking orders and starts giving them.

4/5

Release date: April 4, 2014 (USA)