Film of the Week: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (12A) ****

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Past and present collide in Anthony and Joe Russo’s action-packed sequel to the 2011 blockbuster, which continues to expand the sprawling Marvel Comics universe.

Addressing timely concerns about unrest in the Middle East and the corruptibility of the political establishment, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a bombastic, big budget extravaganza that’s every bit as entertaining as the opening chapter.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely are duty bound to deliver a miasma of explosive thrills.

A crunching car chase involving SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is edge-of-the-seat stuff and a climactic showdown involving the titular hero and diabolical Hydra lets loose the special effects wizards.

Amidst the death and destruction, Markus and McFeely flesh out characters and back stories, fanning an air of fear and paranoia that harks back to Cold War thrillers of a bygone military age.

Set two years after The Avengers, The Winter Soldier opens with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) acclimatising to life in present day Washington DC. In his heroic guise as Captain America, he leads a daring rescue mission at sea, flanked by sexy spy Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and SHIELD’s counter-terrorism unit.

Soon after, Fury escorts Rogers into the bowels of the agency’s headquarters, which houses three state-of-the-art heli-carriers. These aerial warships, codenamed Project Insight, will extinguish threats to global peace from the skies, killing terrorists before they have a chance to strike.

‘I thought the punishment usually came after the crime,’ observes Rogers.

‘We can’t afford to wait that long,’ retorts Fury coldly.

The Winter Soldier is cut from the same tried and tested cloth as the first instalment.

Evans and Johansson enjoy verbal jousting in between their fight sequences while Anthony Mackie proves a likeable addition to the team as winged warrior Falcon.

There’s an inescapable feeling throughout that this is an appetiser to the main course of a third film in 2016 and sure enough, the Russo brothers’ picture ends with a cliff-hanger.