Captain America (The Winter Soldier): A flourishing spectacular countdown to Avengers-II

There is something endearing about these comic book superheroes and their infallible sense of justice that leads them into all sorts of trouble. Even the mild-mannered slightly lost looking highly patriotic Captain America in his stars and spangles spandex uniform.

The second independent outing of the righteous super soldier of America is a stunning installment in the Avengers series, a fitting big gun in the shiny gun-rack of the series producers. Because this time, it’s bigger, better and more bad-ass. By opting for a cloak-and-dagger narrative than an over-the-top special effects blowout, the winter soldier comes out to be a near-perfect superhero story.

Chris Evans, playing the titular role has this boyish charm, complete with the “I-am-lost-in-this-21st-century” vulnerable look about him that endears. But Captain America-II is not about the bulked up most viral man of America. Chris is clearly upstaged by two of the most prolific and talented actors of Hollywood – Samuel L Jackson, reprising the cyclopic Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D and Robert Redford playing the enigmatic sharply dressed Alexander Pierce, chairman of the world security council. The two men who keep the whole world safe from threats and aliens. Jackson finally gets his due after having played second fiddle to the sharp-tongued eccentric Tony Sparks as damn near immortalized by Robert Downey Jr in three outings and long-locked God of Thunder Thor, Chris Hemsworth in the last two outings. Nick Fury, a permanent fixture in all things Marvel, is the sarcastic head of the agency with major trust issues and has come to represent SHIELD to all of us. You love this guy. How can you not! And this time, Nick is right in the thick of the action – a scorching car chase, blistering gun fights and up against a corrupt industrial conglomerate that has even penetrated and compromised the sacrosanct agency itself. Robert Redford, the sharply dressed suave politico plays his role to such rousing flourish that you cannot help be impressed and feel happy that this veteran superbly talented actor is also considering to act in such commercial movies.

Add to this mix – the smoldering Scarlett Johannsen (looks a bit faded and paler than usual but still kicks ass with that her gravity-defying stunts) reprising the Black Widow and Anthony Mackie, playing the role of Falcon, Cap’s witty and loyal sidekick – the whole ensemble cast deliver a riveting performance elevating this movie and the whole marvel franchise to near super-movie status. And what of the winter soldier, you ask? Silent, menacing and grim – the titular villain is the perfect fighting machine but well, forms just another cog in this giant wheel of corrupt, conspiring universe hell bent on destroying what our superheroes want to protect.

The movie in spite of being presented as a spy-thriller where subplots are being peeled off as layers one by one, is full of slick action set pieces. Big guns, brilliantly choreographed one-on-one heavy duty fights ( it’s a relief to see Chris Evans not hide behind his shield and step up to trade stiff body blows, not once but twice! And you will LOVE the action!) and some fantastic aerial fight sequences liven up the pace that never flags. Things are kept in play throughout with curve balls and hair pin bends in the plot thrown at you at regular intervals. And the wit! Snappy banter and the crackling chemistry between all the lead actors – Scarlett who keeps taking potshots at the Cap asking him to gather courage to ask the ladies out and slyly stealing a full-on kiss and admonishing the abashed soldier about his “lack of practice”(Yeah we are left longing about what could have happened! Or Jackson trapped inside his bullet-proof vehicle in the middle of a siege surrounded by rattling machine-gun fire has this moment of truth with his AI. Sweating about being rained down by gun-fire, he asks “what systems are up and working” and the AI quips, “The air-conditioning is still intact, sir.”

Moments like this are plenty and crack you up just as you think the tone is getting darker and heavier. Agreed that this perhaps is a much grittier and darker outing for Marvel compared to its previous ones. And so was Thor-II (Dark world). Gives you a niggling feeling about the Age of Ultron, huh?
The theme of who watches the watcher is the predominant one that emerges but the clever folks at Marvel don’t reveal all their hands. As is evident by the after-credits scene ( which has become a staple for Marvel outings now)-  plugged in with incomprehensible clues about what may happen next and we are left scrambling to forums and discussions to keep the flames alive, nice tactic yo! My only grouch was perhaps the length – the opening ship rescue mission in the dark of the night we could have done without. But don’t get me wrong, the pacing is flawless. Breathless.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a mesmerizing superhero movie, perhaps the best yet from the Marvel stable. A dark intriguing spy story that pitches a 1940’s super soldier against shadowy foes of industrial might corrupted by power, the movie nicely builds on that bridge towards the now-highly-anticipated second part of Avengers. The consequences will echo throughout the entire franchise and we are left salivating about the wonderful prospects of what may come after this! Yaay!


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