Chris Evans reprises his role as Captain America/Steve Rogers in Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Photo courtesy of Film Frame
Chris Evans reprises his role as Captain America/Steve Rogers in Marvel’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.” Photo courtesy of Film Frame
Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Film review: ‘Cap’ packs a good punch

With its strong cast, great action sequences and suspenseful atmosphere, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” triumphs as commendable blockbuster entertainment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) finds himself growing increasingly restless with his role in the modern world, and the work he does for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t making his life easier.

But when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is attacked, Rogers comes face-to-face with a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier.

Teaming up with highly-trained spy Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and ex-paratrooper Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), Rogers uncovers a conspiracy far more sinister than he could have imagined.

Directors Anthony and Joe Russo have made a worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), one that seamlessly combines a superhero story’s action-packed style with the mystery and suspense elements of a political thriller. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed Captain America’s debut in “The First Avenger,” I was even more impressed with how his next adventure, “The Winter Soldier,” turned out.

Marvel has had a good track record when it comes to stunning action sequences, and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” proves just that.

In addition to more Black Widow takedown maneuvers — which are rougher and more hardcore this time around — we finally get to see Cap experience the flavors of modern-day fighting and deliver the goods we were hoping for.

Whether it involves Cap battling potentially untrustworthy people or him facing off against the Winter Soldier countless times, audiences will not leave the theater shaking their heads in disappointment.

Several key moments are the Winter Soldier’s overpass assault and the introductory S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel rescue, the latter of which we have the honor of seeing pirate leader Georges Batroc (former UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre) fight Cap.

What surprises me even more is the fact that the narrative structure is simple, but it contains plenty of political intrigue and tension to keep audiences excited.

The Russo brothers could’ve easily opted for the overly convoluted path from which some mystery and thriller films never return; thankfully, they reach an effective balance between straightforward and complex.

All the twists and turns the story encounters fall into the places they were meant to fit into, imbuing this superhero blockbuster with a momentum that doesn’t let up.

The more you follow these characters’ struggles, the more you witness the conspiracy’s unfolding.

And no, I am not kidding: once this ride takes off, there’s no stopping until the grand climax.

But here’s the best part: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” features no shortage of rich character moments, most of them spent on Cap and Black Widow struggling with not only their differing moral perspectives, but also the hidden enemy they’re fighting.

The dynamic between the soldier and the spy when they’re working side by side is convincing, and I give the two leads credit for pulling it off.

I’ve always liked Chris Evans’s portrayal of Captain America, and he continues to shine as the beacon of goodness while also learning a few things about “the bigger picture” as defined by modern society. Scarlett Johansson succeeds in taking the Black Widow we saw in “The Avengers” and delving into the internal issues she faces as someone who hasn’t exactly placed a high priority on integrity throughout her career.

Anthony Mackie brings an expressive energy to war veteran/PTSD counselor Sam Wilson during both his moments of tender connectivity and his transformation into the Falcon.

Sebastian Stan proves capable in conveying the Winter Soldier’s ruthless efficiency through his eyes alone, all the while matching Cap’s superhuman moves with his own techniques.

Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Nick Fury, does a wonderful job of emphasizing the character’s complex code of ethics that we didn’t get to see before. But the real high-ranking S.H.I.E.L.D. leader that many moviegoers should pay attention to is Robert Redford, who is simply brilliant in his role of Alexander Pierce.

Long story short, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has earned its stars and stripes for good reason, and for that same reason, Marvel fans and casual moviegoers will be elated to see what the Russo brothers have created.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout.

Run time: 2 hour and 16 minutes

Playing: In general release