Since the defeat of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in New York, Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) remains in S.H.I.E.L.D to assist Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his team in covert missions while adjusting to life in the 21st century. During a rescue operation to free hostages on board of one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s vessels, Rogers catches Agent Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) downloading information from the ship’s computers under Fury’s orders. When the data cannot be unlocked, Fury grows suspicious of foul play and is attacked in the process. He turns to Rogers for help on a looming threat that is festering from within the agency itself. With the aid of Romanoff and former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson / Falcon (Anthony Mackie), he must quickly nip this clout of terror and unravel the mystery surrounding Fury’s attacker, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).
After a solid introduction to our first Avenger in the World War II themed 2011 feature and as part of the ensemble team in ‘The Avengers’, the morally upright Captain with his very cool shield is back; bigger, louder and definitely better in every way to its origins story. Being revived in a time where everything is less black and white, his stand against evil and transgressions is very much tested in ‘The Avengers’. In the company of Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) and Romanoff whose moral compass shifts according to the missions, Rogers still manages to maintain his steadfast principles. In this latest offering, he is once again thrown into a malevolent situation where the lines between good and bad are so blurred, he may finally need to embody the shades of grey which he so despised previously.
Blame it on a new era of borderless boundaries, there really is not much room for Rogers’ chivalry and traditional values to compete in a time when ‘tweeting’, ‘instagraming’ and ‘selfies’ are the rage these days; even Clark Kent underwent a make-over in Zack Snyder’s retelling of Marvel’s direct competition (mankind’s saviour has a little bit of a temper and he is not afraid to get his hands dirty). While the man of steel did have a reason to be reinterpreted with Christopher Nolan’s sensibilities (after all, there have been countless Superman movies and series made prior to this), our very retro Captain is still very much ‘fresh faced’ with lots more development the film makers can head for his new adventures.
It is through his constant need to serve and protect his country that plays extremely well to a more politically-inclined tale of deceit from a threat thought to have been exterminated a while back. The move is bold (what with ‘Thor: The Dark World’ opted for simple plotting and comic moments), reminiscent of stronger efforts from the ‘X-Men’ series and Marvel’s very own underrated ‘Iron Man 2’. It is by far the most satisfying piece of work from the MCU (for the uninitiated, Marvel Cinematic Universe) utilising some of the best elements in other political classics such as ‘All the President’s Men’ and Robert Redford’s ‘Three Days of the Condor’. By the end of this journey, albeit a very topical one, we see the ramifications of his decisions not only affect his friends and foes but most importantly, himself as a beacon of honour.
His acceptance to go rogue and challenge a very controversial policy is realistic, showcasing once again why Rogers is the man for all seasons (or in this case, eras). He proves that to be a good leader, you sometimes really need to just follow your heart and be unexpected. And unexpected is what you get in this thriller by the bucket loads. You may be able to fit the pieces initially but the bigger picture revealed would certainly blow your mind. Not to give much away, watch out for another winning performance from Redford as the ambiguous Alexander Pierce. He lends gravitas to a character that could have easily been boringly over the top.
At the end of the spectrum is Jackson whose outlandishness is still uniquely his but his expanded role here does put him in a more human and likable position. Johansson rounds up with her usual magnetic presence on the chameleon-like Black Widow though character revelation about her past is rather scarce (the producers may be saving the good stuff for a spin-off ala ‘The Wolverine’). With so much talent bursting through, it is rather unfortunate that Mr America is a little sidelined here. The problem is not on Evans unable to convey the necessary emotions. It is just that the personal stakes are not as high for this war veteran to shine as compared to his other compatriots.
As the title may suggest of this mysterious mercenary, do not be fooled into thinking it is all about the ‘Bucky Barnes Show’. With all Marvel productions, the introduction of an iconic adversary may very well play into a couple of chapters or crossovers. It is pivotal for him to be part of a larger plan in the compromised S.H.I.E.L.D agency but what is seen as of now is only the tip of the iceberg. Brace yourselves for continuous wonderment as directors Anthony and Joe Russo are already hard at work for the next level of storytelling. Only question is, why would the Superman sequel even bother to position itself directly with the threequel on the same release date?
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout