My apologies, especially to Disney, this review is a couple days late. Let me see if I can’t make it some: You need to buy, or at least rent “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t miss what is by far the best Marvel film since the original “Iron Man,” and one of the smartest and most compelling superhero movies since Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
Forget the original “Captain America” entry, which was fine, fine, fine, but nothing special. “Winter Soldier” strips down Cap and S.H.I.E.L.D. into something that feels like it takes place in the real world.
It’s not just the story, which touches on our own country’s current debates surrounding privacy, drones, and pre-emptive action (though the rise of ISIS since “Winter Soldier’s” release has dampened the urgency), it’s also how well the filmmakers integrate its superhero characters into 2014 Washington DC (where much of the film is set).
Unless you’re that person who didn’t see “The Avengers,” you already know how and why Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) ended up in the 21st Century. Today he’s working for S.H.I.E.L.D. with Black Widow (a very appealing Scarlett Johannson) but doesn’t feel good about it. The missions seem contrived, like cover ups, and that doesn’t sit well with Cap’s old-fashioned American values.
At the center of it all is Alexander Pierce (a perfectly cast Robert Redford), a top S.H.I.E.L.D. official and America’s representative to the World Security Council. After his friend and subordinate Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is sidelined by an assassination attempt, Pierce mistakenly believes he can sell Rogers his “greater good” Kool-aid.
All of this results in Captain America being branded a traitor and put on the run with the mysterious and seemingly unstoppable Winter Soldier gunning for him.
The action scenes are dynamite, especially the assassination attempt on Fury, a brutal shootout over and around a highway overpass, and the climactic battle aboard flying carriers.
I’ve now seen “Winter Soldier” in the theatre and at home. Either way this is a legitimately terrific film. Big themes. Compelling characters. And a Captain America whose patriotism and virtue is made to feel edgy in a world that scoffs at such simple notions and right and wrong.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is available at Amazon.com.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC