In a visceral world, where reality is tangential, the world must be saved from evil, which rises from those who dwell among us. In an otherwise alternate world, where reality coexists with carpet bombings and trade embargoes and product bans, the script would read a tad differently. But, we are concerned with the former here. In this world, the saviour of mankind is as American as the sun is bright, maybe even brighter.
Steve Rogers aka Captain America is one of Marvel Comics’ more virtuous heroes, and dare one say, duller. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, however, he is far more interesting than his comic self. That does not compromise on his goodness. Quite the contrary: it accentuates it. To the point that amidst all the humungous machines that evil can unleash, he emerges a winner. The kind that takes a beating from his enemy and still wins.
S.H.I.E.L.D., the body that is so secretive that the head doesn’t know — well, he does — what the hand is doing, is infiltrated by an even more secret group of individuals who have sworn to protect the world from evil. The problem is this ‘evil’ masquerades as ‘freedom’, but it is freedom that will prove to be the biggest casualty.
Smelling a rat, agency head Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) turns to his best soldier and patriot, Captain Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). The ‘Cap’ is ably assisted by Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and war veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie as Falcon) to fish the troubled waters. Sitting atop the rot is Senator Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), who steers the ship within the ship.
Pierce, a member of the World Security Council, is at the top of the patriotic chain at S.H.I.E.L.D. The problem is, he is also the leader of Hydra, the group that has penetrated S.H.I.E.L.D. and wants to have the world on its remote control.
Ironically, Pierce deludes himself into believing that he is doing it for the greater good of world peace, preemptively snuffing out potential risks, based on their habitual records. He even throws in a Pakistaninvading- Mumbai reference to make his point. Gets you thinking whether directors Anthony and Joe Russo were not making their own point about the dangers living in a highly digitised world, where every move you make is subject to scrutiny.
For a superhero film, the action is almost brutal, quite a departure from the slick fight sequences that one gets to normally see in this genre. Evans has played the ‘Cap’ competently. Johansson and Jackson are also good. Redford is a villain in the old-school mould and looks just the right age for the part. As for Captain America’s enemy, the Winter Soldier, Sebastian Stan is better with the mask on than without it. However, that probably has to do with the aura the accessory brings to a formidable opponent.
The fact that both the Captain and the Winter Soldier have had their beginnings in the most devastating war mankind has ever known is what shapes each man’s attitude to their present, which they have been cursed to in an almost Biblical manner. They both want freedom, just in a different way.
In the end, the film becomes Sisyphean for both the hero and his foe. The stone has been rolled uphill in this part, one feels, only for it to roll down again at a later period. We have not seen the last of the Winter Soldier yet.
For the Captain, the Avengers have got another soldier in Falcon. As the Black Widow puts it, “You cannot shut us down. You need us.” Amen!