Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, of course, a Marvel Cinematic Universe film acting as a sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger. That said, it's just as much a sequel to Avengers. It stars Chris Evans, Scarlett Johanssen, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Grillo, Robert Redford, and Anthony Mackie.
So: Following the Battle of New York, Sam Rogers/Cap (Evans), not knowing quite what else to do, has enlisted as a SHIELD agent. He's living in DC, doing missions with Black Widow (Johansson). In the opening scene, he meets a pararescue trooper named Sam Wilson (Mackie), and they bond over their shared experiences in the service. Rogers goes on mission to a hijacked SHIELD ship in which Black Widow, following her own agenda, recovers some data from the ship's computers, which director Nick Fury (Jackson) can't crack.
Turns out SHIELD is about to launch three helicarriers armed with state of the arm weaponry and the ability to kill targets from low orbit. Rogers doesn't approve, but follows orders. Fury is then attacked and seemingly killed by a strange assassin with a metal arm - the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). Rogers does some digging, is declared an outlaw and fugitive by SHIELD's acting director Alexander Pierce (Redford), goes on the lam with Widow, and discovers that SHIELD, since the 70s, has been infiltrated by Hydra.
With Wilson's help, Widow and Cap kidnap SHIELD agent Sitwell (Maximillio Hernandez), and learn that he's Hydra and that the helicarriers are going to kill everyone that Hydra deems a threat (Bruce Banner and Stephen Strange are both mentioned). The Winter Soldier attacks, Maria Hill (Colbie Smulders) intervenes, Fury's alive, and the Winter Soldier turns out to be Bucky Barnes, the comrade that Cap thought died in 1944. The small group of them assault the helicarriers and manage to down them. The Winter Soldier recovers his mind enough to save Cap, Fury shoots Pierce, Wilson beats up Agent Rumlo (Grillo, setting him up to become Crossbones later), and Cap and Wilson go after Barnes.
This movie is really awesome and dense. There's a lot going on, and yeah, the action sequences are good, but I am continually amazed at how tight the MCU movies are and how the tone of them changed after Avengers. I need to re-watch Iron Man 3 and Thor: Dark World before Age of Utron opens in May, because I want to get those events in mind, too.
But anyway, the cast here does a great job at portraying the ambiguity of doing intelligence and military work in the Marvel world, and the movie brings out the destruction of SHIELD with appropriate gravitas. One of the nice things about the MCU is that big, game-changing shit like Hyrda's infiltration can work, and I'm really looking forward to seeing it show up in the other characters' movies (this movie hit after the Iron Man and Thor movies, so Hydra wasn't mentioned). It feels like a spy movie with superheros, rather than a comic book movie, and I appreciate that.
And I really want a Black Widow movie. Hawkeye, no Hawkeye, whatever.
My grade: A
Rewatch value: Medium-high, it's long
Next up: Hunger Games