This was not only the sequel to the 2011 Captain America
film but also a follow-up to Marvel's The Avengers
(2012) and features Chris Evans in his 3rd effort as the super soldier from WW2 (if you don't count a cameo in the 2nd Thor
film). By this point, Steve Rogers (Evans) a.k.a. Capt. America has been in modern times for a couple of years. He works for S.H.I.E.L.D. and usually goes on special missions; another special agent is The Black Widow
(Scarlett Johansson), also returning from The Avengers
. The first act shows us one of these missions, a mundane one involving a mercenary named Batroc (in the comics, this was a flamboyant French mercenary who was master in the kickboxing art of Savate; he's more realistic in this film). Things steadily pick up as a conspiracy is revealed from within S.H.I.E.L.D. - as unlikely as it may seem, Hydra, the organization which is S.H.I.E.L.D.'s nemesis, has been infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. since its beginnings.
Things really heat up and become intense suddenly when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Director, is himself attacked and apparently killed. The premiere assassin on Hydra's side is a mysterious super killer known as The Winter Soldier, an entity which has been around for many years and pops up when some very serious damage needs to get done. Cap teams up with the Widow and new buddy Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) a.k.a. The Falcon to combat this new threat, but he swiftly discovers that this Winter Soldier is none other than his old pal Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), from his WW2 years; Barnes was, it's eventually revealed, brainwashed into his current persona. Barnes is now so super efficient that he's a match for the ultimate soldier, Captain America. The plot by Hydra, in which supposed top S.H.I.E.L.D. honcho Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) figures in, has to do with the mass execution of 20 million people in order to bring order to the world - or something like that. This theme involves sacrifice of millions to 'protect/save' billions, but I'm unclear as to why the cold, somewhat inhuman Pierce would concern himself with such idealistic goals, even if they're part of his cold equation. Why not just spell out that it's about some kind of power grab?
A lot of this plot, though revolving around super-heroic figures and super-villains, is almost like an homage to all the political conspiracy thrillers of the seventies, notably Three Days of the Condor
(1975), which starred Redford. It involves the now old plots of shadow governments and secret agencies, as well as sub-agencies within agencies that are so secret that even the ones supposedly in charge of all this security know nothing about 'em. There was actually a similar plot in the comics, a mini-series with Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., in which Fury found out that his organization had been corrupted long ago. The problem with such a plot is that it points to the clueless nature of the good guys, the supposedly sharp heroic types who have been running such an organization for many years without ever figuring out that half the organization has been subverted. But, it's about as good as an action picture gets these days, with a continual stream of intense, volatile combat situations - Cap is sorely tested in this one. He next showed up in Avengers-Age of Ultron
(2015). BoG's Score: 7.5 out of 10Winter Trivia
: members of the World Security Council from the Avengers film also figure into the story, including Jenny Agutter as the female member, though the Black Widow is disguised as her in one scene; Stan Lee cameos as a security guard (as in the 2003 Hulk film); and, during the end credits, Thomas Kretschmann cameos as Baron Strucker
, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver
, Elizabeth Olsen as the Scarlet Witch