Movie review: “Captain America” sequel restores faith in the genre

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From the April 3, 2014 edition

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is, by my count, the ninth movie in Marvel’s Avengers ennealogy (a word I had to look up which refers to a nine-parter — and technically isn’t true, as the series continues).

What I’m saying is, there are a lot of these movies. And they were starting to all run together a bit, most recently in sub-par sequels for “Iron-Man” and “Thor.” So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for an April release “Captain America” follow-up.

Turns out, it was the jolt of energy the series needed and the best superhero movie since “The Avengers.”

It’s a couple of years after the events of “The Avengers,” and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is settling in to modern life in his new home in D.C. He briefly befriends a war veteran/PTSD counselor named Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), but soon he’s called away to duty on a S.H.I.E.L.D. mission by director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

On this mission, while Captain America is busy saving hostages from pirates, fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is, for reason’s unclear to the Cap, busy downloading a bunch of intel to a flash drive. This sets off a web of intrigue that leads to a big bad new baddie known as The Winter Soldier.

Most of the best superhero movies have been character stories. “Winter Soldier” is instead a layered and paranoid espionage thriller. It’s like what you’d get if John le Carre took a stab at the superhero genre.

It’s not as if the characters aren’t here — though Rogers is kind of a wet noodle compared to, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark — they’re just too busy trying to figure out who’s crossing and double-crossing them.

Directed by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo — whose previous credits include TV’s “Community” — “Winter Soldier” has some jaw-dropping action sequences punctuating the cracker-jack plot twists, too.

No, this isn’t the level of filmmaking of the best superhero movies — “The Dark Knight” is still the high-water mark — but “Winter Soldier” is a rollicking good time, a cinematic page-turner.