Marvel's new cinematic adventure not only continues the superhero saga but also plunges into a Cold War conspiracy that could deliver covert technology into the hands of an enemy agent. Set two years after "The Avengers" alien attack in New York, U.S. Army Officer Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) becomes a target when he makes a discovery that could endanger the entire planet.
Rogers becomes suspicious about corruption within S.H.I.E.L.D. when the secretary of the World Security Council, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), reveals top-secret plans for Project Insight, involving three, huge, high-tech drone-like "helicarriers" that float in the atmosphere instead of the ocean, insidiously spying eyes-in-the-sky. "This isn't freedom; this is fear," Rogers tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who warns Cap, "Trust no one."
Working with Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Rogers also enlists a former Iraq/Afghanistan paratrooper, Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who is able to swoop around using giant wings. The titular bad guy is a brainwashed Russian assassin known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who turns out to be someone Rogers knew way back when.
Based on Ed Brubaker's comic book series and scripted by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, the quirky plot is convoluted yet adroitly directed by brothers Anthony and John Russo (TV's "Arrested Development" and "Community"), who will be helming "Captain America 3." To their credit, the Russos enhance not only the individual characters but also relevant contemporary themes of surveillance, security and control -- versus liberty. Unfortunately, they overuse the shaky cam in repetitive, even confusing action sequences.
While Evans doesn't have the acting chops of Robert Downey Jr., Redford gives inherent gravitas and it's fun to spot Stan Lee in a cameo as a hapless Smithsonian security guard.
Don't leave the theater be-fore watching the two teasers embedded in the end credits,
the first directed by Joss Whedon, who helms "Avengers: Age of Ultron," scheduled for May 2015.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is a spy-centric 7, a timely, intriguing espionage thriller.