There’s an old saying that it’s not paranoia if they’re really after you. And so it goes in this fine, fine sequel, a throwback to 1970s conspiracy thrillers like All The President’s Men (1976) – starring Robert Redford! – and The Parallax View (1974), except with superheroes. And in a world with the likes of Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg, why the hell not?
When last we saw Captain America a.k.a. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) a.k.a World War II hero a.k.a. saviour of the free world, he had just awoken from decades of slumber. While the first movie was strictly a period piece, the sequel places Cap firmly in the modern world – a very strange, different and even cruel world.
His one-time paramour Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is now a white-haired nursing home resident, while, as Cap puts it wryly, his barber shop quartet are all dead. The only people he still has things in common with – Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are haunted by their combat experiences.
But while Cap is an innocent and an idealist in a shady world, he is no one’s fool. “I’m getting tired of being Fury’s janitor,” he snaps at one point. And he should be suspicious – SHIELD bosses Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) each have their own agenda, one they’re not sharing with him. So it doesn’t take long before the last honest man in America takes matters into his own hands.
Cap goes on the run, partnered by Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) and new-found friend Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), while holding on to key information that everybody wants. But there’s a shadow hanging over them all in the shape of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) – a masked secret agent with a metal arm, and a shared past with Cap. To say any more at this point would be to spoil the movie, so I’ll let you enjoy it for yourself.
The action relies more on hand to hand combat than CGI, making full use of Evans’ impressive physicality. One excellent set-piece takes place in a lift, where Cap literally takes on 10 men. Cap and the Winter Soldier essentially stalk each other throughout the movie, and when they finally meet face to face, it is a sight to behold. There is nothing quite like watching two hulking men beat the shit out of each other, even if some of the fights do go on just a bit too long
The fish out of water effect is played for laughs – “Internet, so useful,” says Cap drolly – in a movie where the tone is largely deadly serious. Thankfully, the lighter moments also come in the banter between Black Widow and Cap. At one point, she asks coyly: “Was that your first kiss since 1945?” To which he replies deadpan: “I’m 95, I’m not dead.” The excellent chemistry between them should definitely be used in future movies.
I’m glad to report that fanboys will be particularly pleased, as the storyline is largely faithful to the source material i.e. the Winter Soldier storyline by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. It’s just a pity that there’s so little to do for Agent 13 a.k.a. Sharon Carter (Emily Van Camp), niece of Peggy. One can only hope that her role gets beefed up in subsequent sequels.
And of course, there’s the by-now obligatory post-credits scenes. I won’t spoil them for you, but suffice to say that they are a pointer to Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a classic Cap villain. Don’t forget to stay right till the very end of the credits!
Captain America: The Winter Soldier opens in Singapore today. Tell us what you think of it!