starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson
screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
directed by Anthony and Joe Russo
by Walter Chaw A fine companion piece to last summer's The Lone Ranger, with another hero whose essential goodness has become anachronistic in a world defined by its ugliness and venality, the Russo Brothers' Captain America: The Winter Soldier (hereafter Cap 2), for all its boom-boom, is surprisingly thoughtful--and surprisingly doom-laden. It's dark as hell. Gone are the pulp machinations of Joe Johnston--this one is more The Empire Strikes Back than The Rocketeer, where the victories are Pyrrhic and the bad guys are smarter and better-equipped. By the end, this most optimistic of superheroes resolves himself to rescuing a friend, while his closest comrade-in-arms advises him to look for love again. They're small goals, the kind of goals that mere mortals happen to share with this demigod. As such, they provide the film with an unexpected payload of pathos and nostalgia for lost selves that used to believe the world would be better if only we had a friend upon which we could always depend, and love that would remain evergreen. Cap 2 is about our better natures, and it's about the realization as you grow older that you may have allowed your better nature to be subsumed by misdirected senses of duty. It's about what it means to compromise your values on the altar of "maturity" and "sophistication"--even "progress" and "modernity." And when it works best, it's about what it means when you don't.