In 2011, two superhero movies were taken to the next level by being period pieces. 'Captain America: The First Avenger' was set in WWII until Cap was frozen and reanimated in the present. 'X-Men: First Class' set the action in the 60's during the Cold War. Then, Captain America hung out with 'The Avengers' the next year and took superhero team movies to a different level, a level that DC Comics and Warner Brothers have since been scrambling to imitate. Now, with 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier', Marvel (characters) show their diversity by making what feels like a Jason Borune movie with superheroes.
Reportedly, there were some scenes in The Avengers involving Cap being a fish out of water after waking up 70 years later that were cut because that movie was an emsemble piece and needed to focus equally on Iron Man, Hulk and Thor. 'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' does a good job of exploring that and playing it for a few laughs without letting that aspect of the movie drain the plot or the action down. Scar Jo is back as Black Widow, who is constantly trying to set Cap up on a date while making quips about how out of touch he is with the modern world. "Where's the museum? I'm here to pick up a fossil," she quips as Cap gets into her car. Apparently, someone has taught him how to use the Internet, so he has been doing some catching up. He's seen War Games and has a list of TV shows and movies that he wants to check out, including I Love Lucy. He meets Sam Wilson, an ex-Army pilot who suggests that he check out a specific Marvin Gaye album. They become friends and he later becomes a colleague to Cap after donning a rocket-wing backpack that is considerably less ridiculous-looking than the costume that "The Falcon" wears in the comics. Cap goes to a "greatest generation" museum that has a display about him and visits an old friend who WAS his own age during WWII in the nursing home. This reminds him how much he has missed by being frozen for 70 years.
Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, who has his largest (and best) role yet in these Marvel movies. He sends Cap and Black Widow on missions, but Cap starts to question his methods. This leads into a very political, "current", topical debate over whether America should police the world by attacking "potential threats". Cap, being old-fashioned, feels that the punishment came after the crime. Nick disagrees. But Nick also has a disagreement with a politician that he answers to, played by Robert Redford. Alot of under-cutting and back-biting happens until Nick is attacked by bad guys led by The Winter Soldier. This leads to other things being revealed that involve Hydra (the rogue Nazi science group from the first movie) and that send Cap, Black Widow and Nick on the run. The plot is not too difficult to follow if you are paying attention, but there is alot of "who's stabbing who in the back" kind of stuff. Yes, Black Widow is a good guy in the comics, but there was a version where she was not. So, I had my eye on her for a good 40 minutes of the movie. It's not so political that it beats you over the head, but even if you hate politics in real life (as I do), politics in a movie keeps you guessing and layers the plot, which is well-done here.
Cap and Scar Jo have great chemistry together when they are on the run and uncovering plot stuff. All of the actors in this movie are great. There are some great plot twists that I won't spoil. Yes, if you know the comics, you know who the Winter Soldier is, who he was in the first movie and how he ties in with Cap's past. I won't spoil it here, but this movie goes from a heartfelt storyline about Cap trying to find his way in the modern world to some rather thrilling political stuff that threatens to bring down the SHIELD organization (from the other films) and that all comes together in a very entertaining way. Lots of shooting and explosions. Some bloody wounds, but no "gore" and one hospital scene that shows blood. I would keep small kids away from it until they are older, but a great addition to the expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. And yes, stay for the scenes after the credits for an Avengers 2 tidbit..
I give this movie 4 shields out of 5.