Whereas Tom Hanks' Captain Phillips talked, finessed, sweated and went into shock to rescue his crew, Chris Evans' Captain America jumps onto a hijacked boat from a helicopter without a parachute. His liberation of a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel captured by international terrorists involves flinging himself across the deck; a human pinball with terrorists as his easily neutralized bumpers. Make that a super-human pinball, because as much as Steve Rogers maintains his golly shucks good nature, he is, after all, a Marvel superhero and he's here to save the day in the most preposterous and camera-ready fashion that's possible. Welcome to 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'.

This mission isn't just to save hostages, though. Cap's buddy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) has to secure a special hard drive loaded with secrets that could change the very balance of power as we know it. You may need an advanced degree from George Lucas Academy to suss out the specifics during all the World Security Council scenes, but when Senator Palpatine - I mean, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) - says that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised, it isn't hard to know who the bad guys are.

Steve Rogers is a man out of time, but learns he has to learn to trust a few people. Black Widow proves herself in combat and his jogging buddy Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) shares some of the same PTSD battle scars. They - and some other familiar faces - join forces to root out the evil that's been festering within the very highest corners of S.H.I.E.L.D., an evil that has a surprising Teutonic bent.

It's amazing, really, how the suspension of disbelief works. There are moments during 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' where audiences will shake their heads. Why risk going to an Apple store in public to decrypt a secret hard drive when you are chums with the world's greatest computer whiz, Tony Stark? But, believing a man can take down a hovering plane/chopper/spaceship hybrid by leaping atop it from a motorcycle and whamming it with a shield? No problem.

The action in 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' is some of the best of the Marvel Movie Universe outside of 'The Avengers'. The fact that Cap is almost a regular guy is used to great advantage - he winces as he blasts open locked doors with nothing but his own brawn. His signature shield is used often and to great effect in this episode, almost as if it is a part of his body that he can remove, bank off three concrete barriers, thrust inside of a carbine and then yank free in one acrobatic arc.

We finally get to see Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury engage in some high speed combat, and the titular Winter Soldier - a shadowy figure working for the evil puppet-masters within S.H.I.E.L.D. - makes his debut at center stage in a fashion reminiscent of the Joker in 'The Dark Knight.'

The central conflict of this film is completely absurd - and may have far-reaching implications for some of the other Marvel properties - but the series continues to luck out with its ace casting choices, zippy dialogue and fast action. Despite all the explosions and ridiculous technology, you still care about Steve Rogers, whose anachronistic seriousness trying dutifully to fit in to our jaded times is as apt a metaphor for remix culture as anything else. This entry won't win any new converts, but anyone already invested in this series is going to have a blast.


'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' opens in theaters on April 4.

Jordan Hoffman is a writer, critic and lapsed filmmaker living in New York City. His work can also be seen on Badass Digest and StarTrek.com.

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