Plot: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has been in the modern world for a while now, but he still struggles at times to feel like he belongs. He is of a different era in countless ways, an almost naive persona at times, but he is all hero and so when S.H.I.E.L.D. needs him, he answers the call. He suits up as Captain America and heads off on his latest mission, with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) at his side and while he assumes she shares his mission, she has a task of her own. This upsets Rogers at first, as he feels betrayed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for keeping the full details of the assignment a secret even from him. As Fury begins to decode the data Black Widow liberated during the mission, he discovers that he isn’t the only one who keeps secrets, as the security council has plans for the data that Fury wasn’t in the loop about. It soon becomes clear that S.H.I.E.L.D. is going through some shifts in management, which puts Rogers and Black Widow on the outside, as outlaws. Can they somehow figure out what is going and restore S.H.I.E.L.D. to its rightful overseers?

Entertainment Value: This is one of the rare Marvel movies that isn’t plagued by a lack of depth and reliance on lame jokes, so it is no surprise that The Winter Soldier is one of the studio’s best productions. In truth, if it wasn’t for the overly intrusive attempts to tie the movie into Marvel’s cinematic universe, this might be their finest effort, but those shoehorned moments hurt the movie. This one is a perfect example of how some Marvel flicks should be allowed to exist as standalone movies, as The Winter Soldier doesn’t need the ham fisted MCU elements. Even so, the movie hits a lot of the comic book style elements and since it has a more serious approach, emotion and tension aren’t always undermined by forced humor, as in most Marvel movies. This one plays more like a spy oriented action movie, with a solid narrative that offers good development depth, as well as some potent action set pieces. The movie is still on the bloated side, but overall this is a fun, well crafted superhero movie. I wish Marvel wouldn’t have jammed in the MCU elements, but The Winter Soldier is still quite good.

I still think Chris Evans was an odd choice for Captain America, but his wooden presence somehow works. I suppose a naive boy scout doesn’t need charisma, so Evans’ lack of charm and presence is never an issue. The movie is also smart to surround him with more talented folks, as once again Sebastian Stan is able to steal scenes, even behind a mask this time. He is a nice counterbalance to Evans’ deadpan persona, as he has some great screen presence and makes the most of his screen time. Robert Redford was a huge coup as well, as he brings such gravitas and presence to his role, a one of a kind turn for the Marvel franchise. The rest of the cast is solid as well, with Scarlett Johansson, Hayley Atwell, Samuel L. Jackson, Jenny Agutter (!), Toby Jones, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, and Anthony Mackie all on deck. In the end, even as someone who dislikes Marvel’s assembly line approach to cinema, I had fun with The Winter Soldier and can easily recommend the movie.

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