Friday, April 25, 2014

Movie Review: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Captain America as a character doesn't quite fit in modern culture. He's a flag-wearing patriot who believes in following the chain of command and doing what's best for the country he loves. Perhaps this attitude was a lot easier in World War II 1940s when issues looked so clear. Nazis and the Axis countries were bad; America and the Allies were good. Modern culture doesn't allow for such neat divisions into moral categories. What's a super-soldier to do?

At the beginning of this movie, Captain America is working for S.H.I.E.L.D., a highly resourced and highly effective intelligence agency. One of their ships in the Indian Ocean is raided by pirates intent on ransoming the crew and the scientists on board. Cap leads a rescue mission. In addition to regular S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Black Widow is on the team. After securing the boat, Cap discovers her taking information from the ship's computers, an assignment she had from Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Cap knew nothing about it and is frustrated that Fury didn't let him in on it. As he and Fury discuss it, Fury acknowledges that Cap wouldn't have gone on the mission if Black Widow's assignment had been the primary goal, but she is willing to do things he isn't. Cap doubts he's working for the right people if information is more important than lives. Fury shows Cap a new S.H.E.I.L.D. initiative that will enable them to kill bad guys even before they are going to commit crimes. It's a combination of low-orbit weapons and high-tech surveillance. Cap bristles even more at this project. Following the chain of command and doing what's best for the country he loves comes into conflict.

A mysterious figure (later identified as the Winter Soldier) tries to kill Fury. Fury goes to Cap's home and tells him not to trust anyone. Things with the project are fishy and he gives Cap the USB drive with the ship's information. Fury is taken off to the hospital and Cap comes into conflict with Fury's superior (played well by Robert Redford), who wants to know what Fury told him. Cap is accused of withholding information S.H.I.E.L.D. needs and has to go on the run. Black Widow joins him, presumably because she's used to trusting no one. Events spiral out of control.

So in addition to the usual comic book film action sequences, which are plentiful and exciting, the film has an elaborate conspiracy plot that keeps viewers' brains engaged. I was a little worried when Cap and Black Widow went on the run they'd be shoe-horned into a romantic relationship but they kept it professional (and Black Widow wasn't treated as eye-candy the way she was at the beginning of The Avengers). The unraveling of the plot is well paced, heightening the drama and providing plenty of opportunities for action. It's a fun film that moves the Marvel universe forward in interesting ways.

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