Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2 and 1/2 stars) | April 4, 2014 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

- April 4, 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2 and 1/2 stars)

Give this to the films of the "Marvel Cinematic Universe": they have a consistency of quality. By treating their comic-book-derived films more as regular "issues" than film events, Marvel may never produce a film as great as "The Dark Knight," but it'll never sink to a low like "Batman and Robin" either. And there we have "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," a perfectly creditable comic-book adventure that likewise feels naggingly rote, stitched together from a mess of old plot parts.

Sequel to both 2011's "Captain America: The First Avenger" and 2012's "The Avengers," "The Winter Soldier" follows thawed-out WWII-era hero Steve Rogers (stalwart Chris Evans) as he deals with 21st-century breakdowns of all varieties. On the surface, this sequel — scripted by the first film's Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, and directed by franchise newcomers Anthony and Joe Russo — takes a bold approach by playing that old spy-movie game "Who Do You Trust?" with the players in espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D.

When (too-)mysterious assassin the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) targets S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain America finds himself a fugitive from his government masters, including World Security Council insider Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). Cap's only orders? Trust no one. Somewhat reluctantly, Rogers teams up with kick-ass S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), a.k.a. Black Widow, and their new Army vet buddy Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), known to comics fans as the Falcon. Together, they'll get to the bottom of the conspiracy, take down the Winter Soldier, and restore order.

That matters don't go according to plan occasionally, if disingenuously, resembles a tear-down of S.H.I.E.L.D., which makes for short-term excitement despite serving long-term plot service. Since this is a Marvel movie, it's full of close combat and big-scale action, the heavy-metal mayhem culminating in a climactic action sequence involving the latest wave of S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers. At least for its first half, "The First Avenger" did a brilliant job of grounding its story in character beats. The sequel proves considerably less adept in this regard, other than kicking around Cap's Rip van Winkle awkwardness a bit (the business involving the titular "Soldier" has a chewy, undercooked texture).

"The Winter Soldier" fares better with its zeitgeist-y theme of secrecy versus transparency, which obliquely (and somewhat miraculously) speaks not only to the "liberties" taken post-Patriot Act, but also to extrajudicial targeted assassination via drone strikes and how the Snowden affair has pressed the point of accountability. Of course, none of these issues are examined in anything like depth; this isn't an Errol Morris film. But it's nevertheless clever to give ultimate patriotic idealist Captain America something of a dark (k)night of the soul in tussling with these modern conflicts.

Casting liberal lion Redford against type as a hawk with his finger on the button works out nicely, and implicitly nods to one of this film's inspirations, the superior "Three Days of the Condor." Pierce and Fury both pour out justifications for allowing righteous men to play God (in a program ironically dubbed Project Insight), but Rogers is having none of it: "This isn't freedom. It's fear." Though "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" never strays far from preposterousness, the picture's real-world implications give its high-flying action at least a tug of gravity.

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout. Two hours, sixteen minutes.

— Peter Canavese


There are no comments yet for this post

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Choose a category: *

Since this is the first comment on this story a new topic will also be started in Town Square! Please choose a category that best describes this story.

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields


Registration now open!

Registration is now open for the 33rd annual Palo Alto Weekly Moonlight Run and Walk. This family-friendly event which benefits local nonprofits serving kids and families will take place on Friday, Oct. 6 at the Palo Alto Baylands.

Register Here