“You okay?” “Not dead yet.”

Captain America: The Winter Solider

The second solo Captain America film, featuring Chris Evans as Steve Rogers, of course.  Samuel L. Jackson returns as Nick Fury, as does Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff.  Sebastian Stan is Bucky Barnes/Winter Solider.  Acting legend Robert Redford is Alexander Pierce, Anthony Mackie joins as Sam Wilson and Emily VanCamp is Kate (or Agent 13).

We open with an early morning run in D.C., with Steve lapping another guy, constantly calling out “on your left.”  [Apparently, Chris Evans had to do all his running because no one else runs like him.]  We meet Sam Wilson, who easily jokes with Steve Rogers.  Good to know that not everyone is awestruck and some people can treat him normally.  He even notes that Steve’s bed is too soft at home, bonding as soldiers returned home.  Steve does admit that some things are better in the present, such as food and no polio, but takes note of Sam’s suggestion in a notebook.  Natasha soon comes to pick Steve up for a mission; they have to deal with a hostage situation on a secret SHIELD ship.  Natasha, of course, attempts to set Steve up with various women around the office.  Steve claims he’s too busy; then jumps out of the plane without a parachute.  He easily takes guys out on the ship and Natasha swoops down and takes out a few guys.  The rest of the team moves in and rescues the hostages while Steve then has to fight the pirate leader.  It’s a rather good hand-to-hand fight, Steven even puts away the shield.  Then he finds out Natasha is running her own mission as well, to save SHIELD data; he’s not too happy about not knowing.

Which he goes to Director Fury to talk about at SHIELD headquarters, known as the Triskelion [we saw the triple spiral design way back in Merlin; it’s a Celtic symbol].  In response, Nick shows Steve Project Insight: three helicarriers (with redesigned repulsor engines, thanks to Tony Stark after he got an inside look at the turbines) that will be synced to a network of targeting satellites, with guns that eliminate 1,000 hostiles a minute with a targeting system that can read one’s DNA.  As Nick puts it “gonna neutralize a lot of threats before they even happen.”  Steve points out, “thought the punishment comes after the crime.”  Nick argues that SHIELD is taking the world as it currently is, and other generations, such as Steve’s, did a lot of bad in the name of good.  Steve argues they did it so the future would be free: “this isn’t freedom, this is fear.”  [And a lot of social commentary could be made.  I will not be doing that, but it does make one’s stomach sink a little.]

To cool off, Steve takes his motorcycle to the Smithsonian (specifically, the Air and Space Museum), where they have an exhibit on Captain America.  Steve disguises himself a bit to take it in, and stops in front of the wall memorializing Bucky.  We catch a clip of a video with Peggy Carter, then Steve visits an aged Peggy, looking for advice; he’s not sure what is right anymore.  Sadly, she has Alzheimer’s, and forget Steve is alive at one point.  Steve eventually wanders into the end of one of Sam’s meetings at the VA; a support group.  Steve admits he may be thinking of getting out, but he’s not sure what makes him happy at this point.  Sam gets it.

Nick has his own problems; the data Natasha retrieved is sealed and won’t open even with his director override.  So he visits his friend, Secretary Pierce, and wants to halt Project Insight until Nick knows it hasn’t been tampered with.  Later, while driving, Nick calls Agent Hill and tells her he needs her in DC.  Then his car is hit and blockaded by false police cars, joined by a SWAT team intent on breaking in (and the SUV continues to tell him all the broken parts, though the AC is functioning.  Nick keeps his head and drives out, but is pursued.  A man in a black mask eventually flips the vehicle, but Nick is able to cut his way out.

Steve returns home and manages to flirt a little with his neighbor, but is disturbed to find music playing in his apartment.  So he sneaks in the window, ready to pounce, only to find Nick sitting in the dark, injured, and warning him the place is bugged.  He feels SHEILD is compromised, and doesn’t get a chance to give details as he’s shot again through the wall.  He passes the thumb drive off to Steve, his final warning is “don’t trust anyone.”  Turns out, Steve’s neighbor is only posing as a nurse and is actually security stationed next door by Nick.  Steve pursues the shooter, who manages to catch Steve’s shield; it’s the masked man from the road.

Natasha arrives at the hospital, joining Hill and Steve, watching Nick’s surgery.  He flatlines and is declared dead.  Steve manages to hide the drive, before he is requested back at SHIELD.  He meets with Pierce, who explains his past with Nick, claiming friendship after Nick carried out an unauthorized military operation on foreign soil that saved political officers.  With that in mind, Pierce asks Steve why Nick was at Steve’s apartment.  Steve doesn’t know.  But Pierce actually suspects Nick was dealing under the table and that raid on the SHIELD ship was all Nick’s idea, after he hired the pirates.  As Pierce warns Steve about getting in the way, he remarks that sometimes to build a better world, the old one has to be torn down.  Steve goes to leave the Triskelion, but his team enters the elevator.  Steve notes behavior and realizes what is going on.  “Before we get started, does anyone want to get off?”  The men attack and try to cuff Steve and almost succeed once, but Steve gets free and takes out all the guys.  But there are more waiting, so he has to crash through the outside of the glass elevator, saved from the fall by his shield.  He dodges a quinjet and gets past their walls.  SHIELD is now starting a manhunt for Captain America; his neighbor asks why.  Pierce claims that Steve is lying about the investigation into Fury’s death and he’s now a fugitive.

Steve returns to the hospital to retrieve the data, but Natasha has already found it.  So Steve confronts her; she knew the bullets they dug out of Nick, she knows who killed him.  He’s a ghost to part of the intelligence world, but Natasha has run into him before, the Winter Solider.  It convinces Steve, because they go on the run together.  They hit an Apple store to attempt to read the data, and when that doesn’t work, they track a location that Steve is familiar with in New Jersey.  When Natasha makes a crack about Steve stealing a car, he points out he learned in Nazi Germany.  They end up at Camp Leigh, where Steve trained and he manages to spot that the munitions building is in the wrong location.  It hides one of SHEILD’s first headquarters (complete with pictures of Colonel Phillips, Peggy, and Howard Stark).  They find another secret bunker, filled with old computer equipment.  Turns out, Hydra’s scientist, Zola, was hired by SHIELD after the war, which he used to keep Hydra going in secret, within SHIELD.  When he grew ill, he downloaded his brain to the computer (not entirely sure how plausible that really is, but it’s a premise that has been used before; Batman Beyond did an episode like that).  He still plans for Hydra to take over the world, when humanity surrenders its freedom willingly, when they sacrifice their freedom for security [again, some scary parallels].  He’s also stalling, so a missile can take out Natasha and Steve.  They manage to dive below and Steve protects Natasha.  Steve’s old team searches for them and calls in an “asset.”  The asset is the Winter Solider, who stops at Pierce’s house for his next mission.

Steve takes Natasha to Sam Wilson, the one man he can trust at the moment; he’s not a part of SHIELD, but is a soldier.  When Natasha comments “everyone we know is trying to kill us,” Sam responds “not everyone.”  Sam eagerly offers to help when they lay the situation out in front of him.  Those missions he told Steve about, he wasn’t in a plane, he was in a flight suit (which Steve and Natasha steal one for him to use).  Sam gets SHIELD agent Sitwell (who does appear to be part of Hydra, along with that Senator we don’t like from Iron Man 2) to Steve and Nat, who kicks him off the building when he doesn’t answer.  Sam pulls him up and Sitwell spills the plan.  Zola’s algorithm will target people who can become a threat to SHIELD, using their past to predict future actions.  But they’re interrupted from returning to SHIELD by the Winter Solider and his cronies.  Cars explode and flip and our heroes have to dive out of their car onto Cap’s shield, then take off over a bridge to escape gunfire.  After Nat shoots the Winter Soldier’s goggles, he goes after her.  It’s cool to see Nat in action a bit, then she’s caught by a bullet.  Steve steps in, the Soldier’s metal fist slamming into the shield.  There are flips and turns and after the Soldier throws Cap’s shield, he brings out a knife and it goes hand-to-hand.  In one flip, Steve tears off the Soldier’s (terrifying) black mask and reveals…Bucky.  That name means nothing to the Solider.  Steve freezes, though Sam flies in to kick the Solider away and Nat manages to use a grenade launcher.  But they’re caught by SHIELD and arrested.  Rumlow manages to get his men to not shoot Steve in the street when he realizes there are cameras around.  Luckily for our heroes, Hill snuck into the team and gets them out.

She leads them to a dam and reveals that Nick is alive.  Not in great shape, but alive.  They formulate a plan to replace the targeting systems on the helicarriers.  And Steve wants to take down SHIELD; all of it, it all goes.  Nat’s with him and Sam give Nick “I do what he does, just slower.”  Okay, Cap’s giving orders. 

In the meantime, Bucky returns to his base.  But he’s remembering his past (which is a bit disturbing); how Zola turned him into a weapon.  Pierce and Rumlow visit (cementing that Pierce is a bad guy, if shooting his maid wasn’t enough).  They want a mission report, but Bucky looks a bit lost.  His target knew him, how was that?  Pierce calls the Soldier’s work a gift to mankind; it shaped the century.  But Bucky is still lost looking.  He’s been out of cyro too long, so they must wipe his mind and start over.  And that is not pleasant.  Bucky’s screams echo.

While Bucky flashes back, Steve remembers the two of them after his mother’s funeral, Bucky offering his support and helping Steve out by remembering where the key is.  He tells Steve that he doesn’t have to be alone.  “I’m with you to the end of the line.”  Sam comes out to talk to Steve; they need to stop the Solider.  But Steve wants to save Bucky.  Sam’s got his suit, so Steve needs one.  He gets the one from the Smithsonian display (Stan Lee is the guard who’s probably going to get in trouble [and fans point out that Steve got the Captain suit that Bucky would recognize, not his more muted newer suit]).

The Council is at the Triskelion and listens to Steve’s announcement; he knows the truth, that SHIELD was taken over by Hydra.  And he calls out Pierce and asks good people to stand up.  He knows that the price of freedom is high and he’s willing to pay it and willing to be the only one.  But he’s willing to be he’s not.  When Rumlow threatens a tech, Steve’s neighbor is there to threaten Rumlow in return.  A firefight breaks out and the carriers are launched early.  Some people do try to stop Hydra agents, and Sam and Steve make for the carriers.  Steve points out that they’ll know the bad guys by who’s shooting at them.  Back with the Council, the woman fights back, and turns out to be Natasha in disguise, who stops Pierce.  She also sets to dumping all of SHIELD and Hydra’s secrets onto the web.  She’s also stalling for Fury to arrive, who is mad that his friend turned on him.  He uses his bad eye retinal scan to help Natasha with her job.

Some pilots try to take off, but they’re stopped by Bucky, without the mask.  Sam manages to get his two carriers changed before Bucky rips his wings off and he parachutes to the ground.  Then Bucky goes after Steve.  SHIELD is evacuating and Rumlow goes on the attack.  Hill directs Sam to take care of him.  Bucky manages to wound Steve several times, and Steve has to put Bucky in a stranglehold, hoping he’s out long enough for Steve to change the computer.  They’re cutting it close to the wire, targets are acquired, including Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, and Bucky keeps shooting at Steve.  The switch is made just in time for Hill to change the targets to the helicarriers.  She warns Steve to get out, but Steve orders her to fire anyway.  Bucky is pinned and Steve goes after him.

Nick shoots Pierce, after Natasha shocks herself to give Nick to opening.  Pierce’s last words are “Hail Hydra.”  Nick and Natasha escape, then fly by to pick up Sam after his fight with Rumlow when a carrier crashes into the building.  Steve continues to try to get through to Bucky, but Bucky fights back.  Steve takes off his helmet and drops the shield; “I’m not going to fight you.  You’re my friend.”  But Bucky still punches Steve.  Steve’s bloodied and tells Bucky to finish it, “cause I’m with you to the end of the line.”  Bucky’s eyes widen [this scene is used in the new National Treasure show].  The structure under Steve collapses and he falls into the water.  Soon after, an arm pulls him out.  Bucky saved Steve, but runs off.

We do see Steve recovering in a hospital, Sam sitting with him.  Steve wakes up enough to quip “on your left.”  We get clips of the aftermath, the neighbor agent at the CIA, Maria Hill interviewing at Stark Industries.  The Senator is caught, and Rumlow happens to be rescued.  Natasha is called to Capitol Hill and questioned (one of the guys questioning her is played by Steven Culp, who played Special Agent Clayton Webb in JAG).  She tells them that they won’t put her or Steve in jail, because they need them.  They are the best qualified to defend this world.  Nick burns his storage shed and meets with Sam and Steve.  If anyone comes looking for him, direct them to his gravesite.  Natasha arrives and hands a file over to Steve, Bucky’s file.  He and Sam leave to go find him.  During the credits, we find out that a splinter group of Hydra has the scepter and has been working with it, including two teenagers in cells.  Also, Bucky goes in disguise to the Smithsonian exhibit, most likely to try to find out why this guy knew him and who he was before the Winter Soldier.

On the one hand with this movie, I like Falcon entering, because it gives Steve another friend to count on.  And I certainly like Bucky returning (and fuels loads of fanfics).  On the other hand, I’m not fond of the political backstabbing part or the SHIELD is secretly Hydra part; that’s just depressing.  These are superhero movies, where the good guys win and the bad guys lose.  Yes, I understand that we want nuisances and a developed story, but to find out that the bad guys were hiding amongst the good guys makes us question everything now…and we already have to deal with that in the real world.

We do see some more action from Natasha, which is always cool.  The fight sequences in this film are stupendous.  And on the note of the fandom; I am totally down with the notion that Bucky and Steve are partners…and a bit more.  I actually prefer that to Steve and Natasha hooking up, because that story is too easy.  Mind you, Natasha keeps throwing out other names for Steve to start dating; she could be hinting that she wouldn’t mind hooking up, or else naming others so he won’t attempt to date her.  They’re good friends and it is perfectly acceptable to have opposite gender friends that don’t cross a line.  There are also several stories floating around about what other Avenger members were doing when the final battle was going on; for instance, what would Tony’s reaction be.  He’d be mad that they misused his technology, and probably worried about Steve.  He has no love lost for SHIELD.  We’ll delve more into some of the character relationships as they develop through further films.

Up Next: Guardians of the Galaxy

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