Captain America: The Winter Soldier

 

The latest superhero movie from Marvel also serves as a "who can you trust?" spy story. The film is packed with action while including enough personal moments to allow us to care for central heroes Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), the super-soldier still getting acclimated to contemporary life after being frozen for decades; Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), skilled SHIELD agent, martial artist and sniper; and Sam Wilson/Falcon, an ace ex-paratrooper equipped with mechanical wings that allow him to fly.

Other key players include Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of SHIELD and mega-cool bad-ass; Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), SHIELD big-wig and long-time friend of Nick Fury; Maria Hill (Cobie Smuders), a peppy SHIELD agent working closely with Fury; and The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Shaw), a legendary figure working for the bad guys. He has a big secret that you'll figure out almost immediately.

The story: There are enemy spies in SHIELD, the espionage and high tech law enforcement agency that turns up all over the place in the Marvel universe. Nick Fury and Alexander Pierce are among the figures dealing with the situation. Trust issues abound. Making matters worse is the soon-to-be-unveiled giant Helicarriers that will enable SHIELD to preemptively eliminate threats. Nick Fury thinks it's a swell idea. Captain America compares it to "holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection."

I was entertained by the film. Captain America is a good man, period. He's uncomplicated and not dark and angsty like most contemporary superheroes. Falcon is a clear-cut good guy as well and, despite her background, I had no doubts about the loyalty of Black Widow. With so many characters' allegiances in question, I appreciated being able to trust the central trio.

However, I was bothered by the group's disregard for human life. It isn't until an hour and 25 minutes into the film that one of our heroes (Black Widow) urges the people around her to get out of harm's way and seek shelter. Yes, I know we're watching soldiers fighting a massive threat, but I like my superheroes to be a little less cavalier about killing.

Speaking of killing, Marvel has a real problem with death credibility. After Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) was graphically killed in The Avengers, only to be revived for a spinoff TV series, it's nigh impossible to take the death of a major character seriously. In The Winter Soldier, one of the most prominent characters in the Marvel universe dies before our eyes. I watched and felt nothing, because I didn't believe it for a second.

I could keep griping (what's up with Cap falling great distances without injury? How does THAT work?), but the old Word Count on my computer screen says it's time to wrap up. Quibbles aside, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a solid flick that continues Marvel's streak of winning superhero epics.

NOTE: Marvel superhero movies include extra footage after the credits begin to roll. The Winter Soldier contains two brief scenes. The first pops up shortly after the credits start — you can check it out for yourself. The second scene comes all the way after the credits. You need not hang around. It just shows the mystery character whose identity you figured out long before it was revealed studying the same exhibit Captain America visited early in the film. So there you go.

PS: Near the end of the story, check out the inscription on the tombstone. Film buffs will get a good laugh.

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Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.

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