It still pays to be a good guy

It still pays to be a good guy
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

Movie review

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER (PG)

Action/136 minutes/Opens today

Rating: 4/5

The story: After spending 70 years frozen in ice following the defeat of Red Skull (Captain America: The First Avenger, 2011) and saving the earth in The Avengers (2012), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), aka Captain America, is playing catch-up in present-day Washington, DC.

Working as an operative for intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., the super soldier stumbles upon a government conspiracy - known to his superior, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) - that will put millions of lives at risk.

Soon after, a close friend is killed by the mysterious Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) and Rogers becomes the prime suspect. He goes on the run with his colleague, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and new ally Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to find the assassin before it's too late.

It's hard to be a good guy these days - at least, on the silver screen. Being honest, selfless and brave just doesn't cut it any more.

Which is why Chris Evans' Captain America character is so refreshing to me, in this age of anti-heroes and cultural pessimism.

His civilian alter-ego, Steve Rogers, is behind the curve not just in his general knowledge (he even keeps a list of all the things he missed during his hibernation, like the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall), but also his values, which might seem naive and idealistic today.

Of course, this makes him ill-suited for the morally grey world of 21st century espionage, where having loyalty and compassion can be a liability. Paranoia is the order of the day, as spelt out in a warning by S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho Nick Fury: "Don't trust anyone."

What's more, the bad guys are not as clearly defined as they used to be - one's closest friends can turn out to be his greatest enemies. Secretary Alexander Pierce - played to oily perfection by Three Days Of The Condor's Robert Redford - takes preventive policing to its logical extreme with Project Insight, an initiative that will, in Fury's words, "neutralise a lot of threats before they even happen".

And then there's the eponymous villain, the antithesis of Cap.

Marvel fans and Google searchers might be able to guess the identity of the Winter Soldier, unknown even to himself. Regardless, the masked menace is probably one of Marvel Studios' best antagonists, second only to Loki.

Terrifying, relentless and done up like a Goth Terminator, he poses a more credible threat than any lame Dark Elf or silly-looking Hydra leader.

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