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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (4 stars)

The Cap's latest adventure cleverly taps into topical fears surrounding the activities of the NSA

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The second Captain America movie is a terrific, stand-alone thriller that delivers exciting action sequences and engaging characters wrapped up in a satisfying and cleverly resonant plot.

Co-directors Joe and Anthony Russo (best known for TV's Community) take over the reins for Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the latest film in Phase Two in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU), after Phase One ended with Joss Whedon's Avengers Assemble.

With Captain America: The First Avenger having taken care of Cap's 1940s origins, the second film takes place in present day Washington DC, with Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) trying to adjust to life in the 21st century and working for Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), under the command of SHIELD head Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford). However, when a trusted colleague is attacked by mysterious assailant the Winter Soldier (whose identity constitutes a spoiler), Cap discovers that SHIELD has been infiltrated by enemy forces and is soon targeted by deadly assassins. Teaming up with the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and a mechanical winged agent known as the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Cap fights to expose the members of a vast conspiracy before their dastardly plan wipes out millions of lives.

The Russos deliver a series of genuinely stunning action sequences that are amongst the best Marvel have yet produced: one particular cheer-inducing highlight involves the Cap single-handedly taking down an armed jet plane. In addition, the satisfying script is packed with enjoyable character moments and combines elements of 1970s conspiracy thrillers (the casting of Redford is an explicit nod in that direction) and a variety of comics sources (there are a multitude of fan-pleasing references) as well tapping into some cleverly topical fears surrounding the activities of the NSA.

Evans pitches his performance perfectly as the Cap, evincing palpable charisma and anchoring a morally complex plot with a character that you can always trust to make the right decisions – in many ways he's a much better Captain than the often rather boring figure in the comics. Similarly, Mackie is terrific as the Falcon and Johansson gets to do a lot more than just kick ass in fetching fashion this time round.

General release from Fri 28 Mar.

Captain America The Winter Soldier trailer UK -- Official Marvel | HD

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 128 min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Cast: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan
  • UK release: 28 March 2014

Just as the titular hero (Evans) is adjusting to life in the 21st century, SHIELD turns out to have been infiltrated, and he must team up with Black Widow (Johansson) and Falcon (Mackie). A highly enjoyable conspiracy thriller with stunning action sequences, outstanding performances and a clever, morally complex plot.

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