‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ offers food for thought about our security state
By Carl Kozlowski 04/03/2014
There’s a theory held by some that posits that when a conspiracy thriller or sci-fi movie has a plot line about the destruction of mass amounts of humanity, the filmmakers are actually trying to warn viewers of actual forthcoming doom through clues in the fictional plotline. If that’s the case, then the team behind the new movie “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is working overtime to scare us.
A sequel to the hit 2011 movie “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Winter” finds Captain America’s alter ego Steve Rogers firmly planted in modern Washington, DC, society after engaging in wild travels in the first movie. As he’s catching up on the modern world and what he’s missed in skipping over 70 years of American society, Rogers (Chris Evans) is haunted by his past combat and torn about whether to go back into the military or maintain his status as an Avenger, one of a breed of superheroes who together form a top-secret defense for both America and the world at large.
He meets a former soldier and PTSD counselor named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), with whom he commiserates about their shared similar pasts on the battle lines. But before too much talking time can elapse, Rogers finds himself called into a top-secret mission assigned directly by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the seeming head of the SHIELD forces [think of a glorified version of the Department of Homeland Security) that step in when regular human police can’t handle a situation.
Rogers is dropped into the Indian Ocean to regain control of a SHIELD ship that’s been hijacked by French mercenaries. But he runs smack into fellow Avenger and mysterious former KGB agent Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsen) on board and she’s intent on saving the ship’s computer systems onto a flash drive just moments before a massive explosions rocks the control room.
While she saves the hard drive and he saves her life, he’s left to wonder why she has a different mission than his. Only Fury will explain it, but the moment he does, a string of hit men are sent to assassinate him. With his leader appearing dead in the hospital, Rogers resolves to overcome his grief and kick a whole lot of butts along the way to saving the world from the nefarious plans that are far worse than he and the Black Widow — and their new superhero partner Falcon, who’s Wilson’s alter ego — could ever imagine (think massive drones that can kill anti-government citizens by the millions).
There’s also an insanely buffed-out, highly gadgeted villain in the movie called The Winter Soldier who wears a mysterious mask that looks just like Bane’s in the last “Dark Knight” movie. He may be a ruthless assassin with 24 kills to his credit already, but beneath the mask is a surprising character who may somehow find redemption yet. And yet another surprise lurks in Robert Redford, who says he’s out looking to offer justice but just may be doing the exact opposite.
Who’s behind the nefarious plot? How involved is it, and what if anything can Steve Rogers and his super-powered friends do about it? Those are the questions that remain to be answered, providing a good deal of spark for tons of head-spinning, pulse-pounding action while the script is also smart enough to offer up some pretty serious moments of debate about our nation’s security-state tendencies and how far we’ll allow our freedoms to be stripped in the name of so-called security from terrorists and outside forces who might in fact be less dangerous than the forces in our government.
The cast is uniformly fun and fine, and the direction by the brother team Anthony and Joe Russo is so spot-on that it handles both the quiet moments of debate between Rogers and the world that’s running too fast around him, as well as stunning car chases and acrobatic kickboxing with aplomb. All in all, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is just the kind of movie we need right now: a rousing entertainment that can help you forget your worries, even while demanding that viewers wake up and battle — or at least — question our leaders.