Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlet Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Redford
(Pg-13, 136 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“The enemy is within the gates; it is with our own luxury, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend.” –Cicero
Once in a blue moon Hollywood gets it. Instead of the feel-good pap it usually peddles, this action thriller takes the pulse of real America, their fears and forebodings. The characters go beyond cardboard comics, with some depth and introspection. And the action is awesome.
Captain America:Winter Soldier is the first must see film of 2014, a Liberal/Libertarian Lollapalooza that would make Rand Paul as happy as Robert Redford, who has a pivotal role here.
Another wonder – both the critics and the public love it with an 89% positive rating from Rotten Tomatoes and a $95 million box office opening last weekend, ($300 M worldwide), making the new Marvel entry the best opening of 2014 so far. Just shy of Iron Man’s opening in 2008.
You remember Iron Man’s debut when the public announced – to the tune of its one hundred million dollar opening – that they were tired of all the hand wringing that had come out of Hollywood back then. Ready to abandon the politically correct balderdash and finally go after the bad guys, guns blazing – or that is rockets, flamethrowers, and small nuclear devices to be more precise.
But that was then; this is now, and the bad guys have gone underground and infected the system. The guns are now aimed at our own. And the punishment is going to be pre-emptive, aimed at anyone deemed a threat.
Captain America (Chris Evans) is not amused.
“I thought the punishment usually came after the crime. You hold a gun on everyone on Earth and call it protection. This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”
And I have to give some credit to Robert Redford, who is still willing to take it to the man, even if he probably voted for him this time around. In 2007 Redford directed and starred in Lions to Lambs, a film lamenting our failed Middle East wars.
Tim Dirks called it an “exhaustively-talkative, and opinionated $35 million dollar film (that) chastised the mistaken Bush administration for leading the country into a futile war. The film was poorly attended and fell flat."
Now Redford is in a Marvel block buster, and here he plays no pedantic professor, but the very man he is taking it to, Alexander Peirce, one of the myriad snake heads of Hydra embedded in the American government.
Drones, kill lists, unauthorized data collection, and a militarized bureaucracy willing to turn weapons on its own countrymen are the targets here. It really hits home with the snide remarks from Hydra's head infiltrator to Captain America, who has come out of cyber freeze to an America he now begins to fear.
The Nazi agents of Hydra were wrong, the agent tells the disillusioned superhero, in trying to take freedom away forcefully. We Americans would always fight that. It is only in persuading us to give up our freedoms willingly that they can succeed. Think about that the next time you undergo the routine humiliations of air travel or wonder which government agents are eavesdropping on your email or telephone conversations.
Yes, the film is philosophical, but it doesn’t talk us to death like Redford’s failed 2007 saga. It shows us – with some of the most well choreographed fight scenes, explosions, and general mayhem ever put on film.
Nick Fury is no longer the tall, dark stranger who commands without ruffling his eye patch or chic, black long-coat. He has to fight for his life when his high tech car goes off the grid just as some very nasty colleagues of the clandestine police state target him.
Scarlett Johansson, aka Black Widow Natasha Romanoff, sometimes acts like Captain America’s big sister, suggesting all sorts of dating possibilities for the best looking 95 year old in the room, but she is still drop dead sexy, as demonstrated by the much talked about escalator kiss between the Captain and her. Just for purposes of deep cover, of course. And she can mow down anything or anyone in her way, too, with a mixed martial arts performance featuring those lovely and lethal legs.
Sam Wilson, the Falcon, is the new kid on the team, putting a pair of metal wings to good use like a modern Icarus. He is a nice chaser of sweet loyalty in this somewhat dark cocktail of cynicism and betrayal.
But it is Captain America who thrills us with his fighting, even when he has to battle those he once loved. He is growing as a character, too, ever still the gentleman to his lady love from the 40s, now an old woman in the nursing home whom he regularly visits, but a raging animal now in battle with a country that has left him and his ideals behind.
Celebrate a spring awakening with this film that unites the political right and left. We can only hope that it also wakes America from its long, numb slumber.
“Tangy, fresh, and bittersweet.” That certainly describes our cocktail as well as our cast of outcast heroes, doesn’t it? The disillusioned Captain America has a new tang, his sidekick Falcon is fresh, and Nick Fury and Black Widow, both bittersweet. Or I could echo another critic who describes Fury as “deliciously surly,’ but that isn’t going to go down so well during happy hour.
My renamed Conspiracy Cocktail was originally called Velvet Fog. Both names aptly describe the DC scene in this second Captain America outing where the deep conspiracy is as thick as fog and embedded as smoothly as velvet into the political system.
We need to root it out. But before we do, don’t you think we should fortify ourselves for the long battle? Bottoms up.
Conspiracy Cocktail – Velvet Fog
Ketel One Vodka
Taylor's Velvet Falernum liqueur
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Freshly squeezed orange juice
How to make:
SHAKE all ingredients with ice and fine strain into chilled glass.
Tangy, fresh and bittersweet.