Friday, 25 July, 2014

 
Published March 28, 2014
Cinema
Overly long and a tad darker than usual
But high-tech gadgetry, light-hearted banter and effects-laden action make up for that, says GEOFFREY EU
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In it together: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and fellow Shield agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) find themselves on the run

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There's plenty of comics-style gunfire, close-quarter combat and shield-slinging to satisfy the fans.

PARANOIA, conspiracy theories and undemocratic behaviour fill the air in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, making it the most overtly political movie to date from the money-spinning Marvel Comics factory. The usual effects-driven set pieces and action-movie heroics - plus a comic book-worthy villain - are all in place, but our star-spangled hero also has more than his fair share of opaque political clutter to rummage through.

That means the poor Captain, an old-fashioned good guy newly-installed in a different world, is possibly out of his depth, what with an array of spies, assassins and most deadly of all - politicians - to contend with. But then again, anyone with his own museum exhibition (at The Smithsonian, no less) should possess the wherewithal to navigate his way through Washington DC - where friend and foe often turns out to be the same person.

The last time we saw Captain America (in his own movie, anyway), he had emerged from a deep freeze as Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a World War II-era weakling-turned-super soldier and the Allied answer to the Nazi threat of world domination. This time around, he's an integral member of Shield, the covert law-enforcement government agency run by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), battling a more shadowy enemy.

When security at Shield is badly compromised, Rogers and fellow agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) find themselves on the run, pursued by a gang of killers from their own agency. The world has changed but Rogers remains steadfastly pure: a man of justice and a novice at kissing. He might have old-world values but on the plus side, he looks great for a 95-year-old.

Fury's colleague at the agency and World Security Council member Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) is intent on launching a trio of heavily armed airborne aircraft carriers to police the nation. He also has a habit of giving ominous speeches about sacrificing freedoms in return for security - a conservative view that betrays a hidden agenda.

Rogers gets a new wingman (literally) in the shape of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and then an old foe and an old friend from Rogers' past also show up (in altered states), adding to the intrigue and further colouring our hero's once-simple stand of good-versus-evil. There's plenty of comics-style gunfire, close-quarter combat and shield-slinging to satisfy the fans, but the film is also up to date with its views on national security and US foreign policy.

The Winter Soldier, directed by brother duo Joe Russo and Anthony Russo and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (who also penned the first Captain America script) is overly long and a tad darker than the average Marvel blockbuster, but the high-tech gadgetry, light-hearted banter and effects-laden action will overcome the urge to take any of this too seriously. When the end credits roll and the obligatory post-credits scene has taken place, there's nothing for it but to wait a couple of years for the next instalment to arrive.

Rating: C+