“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is strong stuff

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“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is strong stuff

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(Warning: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is not for the faint of heart. The plot features trauma, death, the repercussions of said death, torture, and paranoia. It’s not graphic, but nor is it advisable to bring young children.)

To the relief of fans everywhere “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” destroys the precedent set by its rather lackluster predecessor, “The First Avenger”. The characters are well-developed, the plot is intriguing, and the CGI is spectacular. It all comes together in a wonderful blend of drama, humor, and action that works perfectly and suits the overall tone of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The movie is set at some point after “The Avengers,” and our hero is still recovering from the culture shock of spending several decades frozen in a block of ice. Despite arguments over method, the Captain (real name Steve Rogers) is now working for S.H.I.E.L.D., the international spy ring founded by his old war buddies. His only friends are fellow Avenger Natasha Romanoff (alias Black Widow) and former serviceman Sam Wilson, whom he meets while running.

None of them have any plans for the future, and none of them want to think about their pasts. Everyone is just waiting for something to happen, while exchanging snappy one-liners and rescuing hostages from pirates. This is a superhero movie, after all.

The plot kicks off when a group of assassins targets Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Among them is the titular Winter Soldier, a near-mythic assassin with a metal arm and strength and speed on par with Steve’s. Unable to trust anyone, Steve and Natasha are forced to go on the run to figure out what happened. Things explode, conspiracies are revealed, Natasha wipes the floor with everyone, and Stan Lee has a cameo.

Whether due to acting, writing, directing, or all of the above, the friendships in this movie feel organic and natural. When characters trust each other, it’s always clear why, and they act noticeably more relaxed.

The CGI is gorgeous and practically indistinguishable from the live action, and although the fight scenes can be slightly inconsistent (a character can take out 20 guards at once, then waste five minutes fighting a single person with no discernible advantage in the next scene), the overall movie flows smoothly, at a pace slow enough to be comprehensible yet fast enough to prevent boredom.

Everyone — everyone who can handle adult themes, that is — should see this movie as soon as possible.

–April 4, 2014–

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