"Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier" L to R: Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) & Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) Ph: Zade Rosenthal © 2014 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.


DIRECTORS: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

CAST: Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Robert Redford, Anthony Mackie, Frank Grillo, Sebastian Stan


RUNNING TIME: 136 minutes

RATING: ****


THE PRESENCE of Captain America, Nick Fury and yes, The Falcon, says this is a fun superhero movie. And an exciting, action-packed one at that. But scrape away the (actually less than usual) CGI and there is a serious political thriller hiding underneath, driven by member of the World Security Council, Alexander Pierce (Redford), an old friend of Fury’s (Jackson).

While Chris Evans is in almost every scene as Steve Rodgers/ Captain America, this is as much his story as it is that of the devolution of Shield, and also, finally, Fury’s journey towards perhaps his own movie?

We’re talking real character development and suspense and intrigue, with plenty of references for the comic book geeks, but at no point would a non-geek not understand what is going on.

The events of the film are set two years after The Avengers, with Rodgers still struggling to find his footing, but his man-out-of-synch troubles take a back seat to his growing distrust of Shield.

The film starts with him meeting post-traumatic stress disorder counsellor, the highly trained ex-paratrooper Sam Wilson (Mackie), who later turns out to be The Falcon. While the opening sequence features some light-hearted banter and jokes, it all gets pretty serious, very fast.

Leading a strike team to rescue hostages on a ship at sea, Rodgers is angered when he discovers Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Johansson) has her own orders. But when he confronts Fury about being left out of the loop his mistrust and confusion only deepens.

“This isn’t freedom, this is fear,” he says to Fury when he is shown their next-gen technology which is now all about pre-emptive strikes.

Casting Redford as the World Security Council member brings with it the baggage of his earlier political thriller acting (think Three Days of the Condor), introducing the niggling suspicion that the powers that be are up to something, and that is not a red herring.

Things only get worse once The Winter Soldier (Stan) is introduced, a super-assassin who is largely an unknown, but what you see is he can match Captain America blow for blow. Sebastian Stan’s nine- picture deal with Marvel suggests we will see more of this character.

Next comes mayhem and explosions and Shield agents chasing after first Rodgers, then Romanoff and then eventually everyone and it could have been a total chaos fest, but the Russo brothers keep a tight rein on any tendency to blow up too many cars, and the editing is finely tuned. Then, amid the craziness, the characters start to bond.

Captain America’s struggle to figure out who to trust is a theme carried throughout the entire story and when they actually find the time to talk to each other you see Rodgers and Romanoff start to finally trust each other. Both begin to question their roles as career soldiers, their own identities and what it is they want out of life.

They approach problems from two opposing points – he is reserved and has a very strong moral centre and hers sort of shifts to suit her needs – but they find a way to make it work. See, the characters develop.

The action is of the old- fashioned fighting kind with Rodgers showing off a new skill set of some very modern fight moves. When Falcon suggests extreme fighting as a potential career change, he’s only half joking.

Comic fans, of course, know to stay for the scenes in the middle and at the end of the credits, which are now as much part of the process as the Marvel One-Shots (short films on Blu-Ray).

By the end of this film the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been completely shaken about, which has implications for not only Joss Whedon’s (he directed the post- credit scene) second Avengers movie, but also the Agents of Shield tv series.

It’s a whole new world out there, darkly dangerous and the people targeting the superheroes aren’t necessarily the traditional bad guys. All hail Hydra.

If you liked Captain America: The First Avenger or The Avengers you will like this.