Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Steve Rogers, A.K.A Captain America (Chris Evans), is still trying to come to terms with being a man 70 years out of his time.  He thought throwing himself into his work with S.H.I.E.L.D. would give him a feeling of belonging and purpose but that has so far eluded him.  During one mission to free some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents held hostage by pirates on a mobile satellite launching ship, Natasha Romanoff, A.K.A. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), violates Rogers’ orders and is found in a control room, downloading information onto a flash drive.  She says she got her orders from their boss Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).  After the mission, Rogers confronts Fury who says there’s always more going on under the surface and he only tells his agents what they need to know to complete their part of the mission.  Rogers doesn’t like feeling shut out of what he thinks is important.  Fury then shows him Project Insight:  Three new helicarriers equipped with hundreds of satellite-guided guns that can go anywhere in the world and take out thousands of hostiles a second.  Fury says this will allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to deal with threats before they become attacks.  Rogers expresses his view that Project Insight isn’t freedom but tyranny.  Fury approaches his boss at S.H.I.E.L.D., Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), asking for a delay in the start of Insight so he can check out a hunch he has about a problem within the agency.  Pierce agrees and contacts the members of the World Security Council.  Fury, who is unable to decrypt the information on the flash drive, contacts Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) for emergency assistance.  As he’s driving to meet her, his SUV is attacked by men dressed as police officers.  He’s able to get away from the first wave but has his car blown up by a masked man known as the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), a legendary assassin who, despite his apparent youth, has been racking up kills for 70 years.  Fury is injured but is able to slip away unnoticed.  He goes to Rogers apartment and, using messages typed on his phone, tells Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised and to trust no one.  He is then shot through the wall by the Winter Soldier.  Rogers gives chase and sees just how impressive a man this assassin is as he catches Rogers shield and throws it back at him even harder with his enhanced metal arm.  Fury dies on the operating table.  Rogers is called in to Pierce’s office and asked what Fury was doing in his apartment.  Rogers refuses to answer and is attacked by several men in the elevator.  He escapes and is now a wanted man, along with Romanoff.  The pair goes searching for the place where the data on the flash drive came from and are led to the military base where Rogers was in basic training.  There they find a hidden control room and ancient computer equipment but a modern USB hub.  They plug in the drive and all the equipment comes to life, including the disembodied voice of an old enemy, Arnim Zola, an associate of the Red Skull.  Zola tells Rogers and Romanoff about a diabolical plan that will reshape the world in a way no one expects or wants.
There is a great deal more in “Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” than what I’ve told you above; however, the fun of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU for short) is all the dangling threads that may one day be woven into a massive moneymaking tapestry of intertwined stories and crossover movies.  Perhaps more than any other Marvel film, “Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” is filled with these tidbits of possibly important information, many of which you could miss if you even blink.  The real question is if this film is worth the time and money to try and catch all these Easter eggs?
First, this may be one of the best Marvel movies since the comic book company branched out into films of its own making.  It ranks right up there with the two best “Iron Man” films and just a little behind “Avengers.”  Everything from the action to the SFX to the story, it all is a vast improvement over “Captain America:  The First Avenger.”  This film feels like it has real risks to the characters.  They aren’t invincible.  They aren’t bulletproof.  They can be deceived and they can be naïve.  It’s the kind of movie Marvel has hinted at in its other efforts but this time they are able to combine all the ingredients in the precise amounts to make an exciting and relevant movie.
The film is relevant because of the resemblance Project Insight has to the NSA eavesdropping scandal of recent times.  While using vastly different tactics to collect data, the NSA and Insight share the same goal:  To quell incidents before they happen.  Insight takes things a couple of steps farther in the film and begins to predict the future with plans to eliminate the troublemakers before they can even consider a plot.  It’s a frightening notion of what might possibly happen in the not too distant future when nearly everything we do will be on line and an intrusive government agency with little or no oversight decides they have the right to all our information.  While outlandish now, the possibility of such a program is probably far closer than any of us believes.  The film certainly amps up the danger and the consequences of such intrusion by tying it back to World War II and by executing the accused without even charging them with a crime.  Despite the hyperbole, the core of what the story is trying to do has more truth than any of us are comfortable with.
Even with the grim plots and double crosses, the movie has plenty of levity to lighten the mood.  Scarlett Johansson is an adept comedic actress when she wants to be.  Her Black Widow can deliver a snarky line and make it funny while at the same time causing men to drool.  Anthony Mackie, as former soldier and friend of Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, is also able to toss off a line and lighten the mood rather quickly.  Even when faced with danger, Wilson can get a laugh by exaggerating the bravado of his character.  The entire cast is able to wring some laughs out of a story that could have quickly turned into all doom and gloom.  All Marvel films have some sense of humor but this film taps into it a bit more.
“Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” is rated PG-13 for gunplay, action throughout and intense sequences of violence.  There are numerous fist fights with bodies being thrown around like rag dolls but there is very little blood.  We get an up close look as a couple of characters get shot but none is terribly graphic.  There are millions of rounds of ammo fired off in the film by everything from handguns to fully automatic rifles.  There are even some grenade launchers and rockets fired as well.  There is very little if any foul language.
There are, as usual, a couple of bonus scenes after the main movie ends.  One involves the upcoming “Avengers:  Age of Ultron” film.  That one occurs in the middle of the credits.  The other happens after the last credit roles and it involves the Winter Soldier.  These quick scenes following Marvel films are a favorite of mine.  They tease the next film in the series or within the universe and give fans plenty to think and chat about after they leave the theatre.  They build interest in films that are a year or more away far better than teaser movie trailers and limited websites.  If DC and Warner Brothers are smart, they will include some bonus scenes in the Batman vs. Superman movie that is scheduled to come out on July 15, 2015.  That could be a record breaking day at the box office as the third Captain America film is set to release that same day.  I just hope we get as good a film from Cap’s third time out as we did his second.
“Captain America:  The Winter Soldier” gets five guitars out of five.
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