Captain America: The Winter Soldier

To clarify, Captain America is not the Winter Soldier. That’s somebody else. (Can’t say who; it’s supposed to be a surprise.) So the colon in the title of Captain America: The Winter Soldier might be confusing because in the first movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, he actually was the first Avenger, whereas this one concerns a confrontation between him and the Winter Soldier. They have some things in common, at least. They’re both super-strong, and so’s their stuff — Cap’s shield and one of the Winter Soldier’s arms both seem to be made of the same metal. And they’re from the same generation, which matters when they’re both embroiled in a tortuous world-domination plot with roots in the Third Reich. It’s a plot thick with friend-foe confusion, freedom-security tradeoffs, and military-industrial complexity — which our still-affably old-fashioned hero (Chris Evans) describes without approval as “holding a gun to everyone on Earth and calling it protection.” On foiling duty he has assistance from Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson, both looking comfortable in familiar roles, and a new ally played by the ever-welcome Anthony Mackie. Plus, Robert Redford is on hand to evoke the vintage political conspiracy thrillers in which he once starred. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (whose previous fare, incidentally, includes the Owen Wilson movie You, Me, and Dupree, some episodes of Community, and a short film entitled Carfuckers) seem less at home in big action sequences, whose choppy editing only further muddles them, than in warmer and more intimate character interactions, which are rewarding. But mostly this is a movie about smashing things up, duking things out, and clanging right along toward the next expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.