The Marvel universe has been beautifully brought to life, repeatedly. While some adaptations have been more successful than others, Captain America: The First Avenger pleased comic book fans, critics and laymen equally. The homegrown, wholesome as apple pie Americana vibe pulsed throughout the film’s two hour run time. The villain was the clear-cut Hydra, a Nazi-adjacent foe working towards omnipotence, against the earnest and eager ultra-hero, Steve Rogers. The dichotomy was simple, and straightforward. Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes that earnest do-gooder, and gives him a moving target. Though his hyper-moralistic stance is at times far too simplistic and idyllic, the sentiment remains solid and subversive.
We find Capt. Rogers (Chris Evans) attempting to fit nicely into his daily life. An agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., he trains during the day, works when he’s called in, and does his duty to protect his people. Along the way, he absorbs some run of the mill peer pressure to get out of his cocoon, join the living, and give dating a shot. When a S.H.I.E.L.D. ship is taken hostage, Capt. Rogers and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) are sent aboard with a team to rescue the hostages, and reclaim their vessel.
However, when Rogers discovers the Widow is on a separate set of orders, ultimately compromising the principle directive, he begins to question not only S.H.I.E.L.D.’s, but Nick Fury’s (Samuel L Jackson) motives as well. Confronting Fury as to his lack of trust in others, the onus is then put on the Captain to learn that universal trust isn’t always the best course of action. Sometimes those we place our deepest faith in are those with the most nefarious intentions.
Enter Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), Fury’s boss, and the film’s newest prominent character. With Redford’s past participation in films like Three Days of the Condor and All the Presidents Men, his role in the film as resident turncoat comes as little surprise. For those unfamiliar with the comics, however, the depth of this treachery is shocking. We’re left with a sinking sensation of distrust, as NSA-level surveillance and military force merge to form a subversive nemesis.