April 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Captain America' gets paranoid while saving the world

Chris Evans stars as superhero Captain America, who battles an entire army of rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agents in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier.' (Marvel Studios)

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has trust issues.

Of course, who doesn’t these days? What with continuing revelations of government spying, credit card hacking, hidden cameras and mass phone surveillance, there’s a general assumption that somebody’s watching you at all times, and they probably are.

“Winter Soldier” tosses this paranoia atop the usual blend of super-heroics, explosions and large objects falling from the sky one expects from a Marvel action blockbuster. Meanwhile the film maintains the central question of the mothership Marvel film, “The Avengers”: Wouldn’t humans be better off under someone’s rule, because we’re certainly botching this democracy thing?

Captain America (Chris Evans) obviously doesn’t think so, but, as the film begins, he is starting to question his work for the world-wide protection agency S.H.I.E.L.D. He keeps getting sent off on rescue missions that seem to have ulterior motives.

He’s not so sure that S.H.I.E.L.D. Commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is sharing everything with him. He’s even beginning to question the loyalties of fellow Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

All this questioning turns out to be a good thing. Because, under the leadership of one Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), S.H.I.E.L.D. has been building three massive flying warships that, once they’ve taken to the air, will look down on and basically police the whole world.

This power would be terrifying in anyone’s hands. But once Captain America discovers an enemy from his past will sit upon the throne, while also using a friend from his past as a lapdog, he decides S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting way out of hand.

And so, much fighting ensues. Cap picks up a high-flying sidekick named Falcon (Anthony Mackie) along the way, and, of course, Black Widow turns out to be as trustworthy as an assassin can be, but they’re up against a lot of hardware and an entire army of rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.

Unlikely directors Joe and Anthony Russo (“You, Me and Dupree” and lots of sitcom work) turn out to be just fine in the action realm, with big scenes at sea, in the air and lots of running around on the ground (one extended street-bound fight sequence looks like the shootout in “Heat” with back flips). It can get repetitious, and there are some logic breaks, but the action is never outright numbing (see the “Thor” movies; or don’t).

Throughout, there’s a running joke about how Black Widow is trying to set Cap up on a date, the most likely candidate being his neighbor (Emily Van Camp, likely to return). Why Cap and Black Widow don’t hook up is a question that lingers. Who else is she going to get with? The Hulk?

Evans has been shushing rumors that he might retire from heroic roles when his Marvel contract is up (likely 2017, Captain America isn’t going anywhere quite yet). If so, it will be a loss; now that his cocky young days seem over, he’s become the absolute picture of an old-fashioned American hero, with dry wit thrown in as bonus. Few actors play straight this well.

In “Winter Soldier,” amidst the chaos, our hero learns to be wary of the modern world. Welcome to the 21st century, Cap.

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'

GRADE: B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, gunplay and action throughout

Running time: 136 minutes

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