CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER was everything you could want in a movie, whether it was comic book related or not. There was plenty of action, decent writing, emotional moments and very, solid acting from almost everyone involved. There may be a few SPOILERS in my review, so if you haven't seen the movie yet you might want to keep that in mind.
The film takes place perhaps months after the events of the AVENGERS film, with Steve Rogers (Captain America) trying to come to grips with his place in a modern society. He has formed friendships, but he is also trying to keep a distance from any romantic entanglements. His first love, Peggy Carter (played again by Hayley Atwell), is still alive but ill and older. As the film opens Steve meets fellow veteran Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Sam is now working to help other returning veterans deal with the traumas they face in daily civilian life. He and Steve immediately bond, which later will prove helpful as the story unfolds.
Nick Fury ( Samuel L. Jackson) sends Cap and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), along with a SHIELD commando unit to rescue the crew of a SHIELD ship that was taken by pirates, led by Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre). If you are an older comics fan, you'll remember that Batroc The Leaper was an old Cap villain. Nice to see him and other characters from the comics used (sometimes with just a mention of their names in later scenes. One in particular is name-dropped quickly, but it gives me hope). Cap discovers that there was more going on than the rescue and confronts Fury upon his return. This sets up some tension between the two of them, as well as with the Widow, whom Cap feels has lied to him.
Fury reveals a new SHIELD plan to begin launching three new heli-carriers that will be used to monitor and 'neutralize' perceived threats to the world. The film uses this and other plot threads to point a finger (as they did in Iron Man 3) at a government willing to use methods (drones, NSA surveillance) in the name of security. It also brings up the all too real situation where citizens are more than willing to give up their privacy in order to feel safe, even if the threat isn't real. Into this plan comes Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) the man who had brought Fury up through the SHIELD ranks after Fury had saved some hostages by other than official methods years before. Redford is just so good in this role and I hope the Academy folks remember it come Supporting Actor nominee time.
Tensions seem high between Pierce and other members of the SHIELD directorate over the implementation of the new security plan and Fury himself begins to have doubts. Shortly after, Fury is attacked by men disguised as police and finally by a masked man who comes to be known as the Winter Soldier. Wounded in the attack, Fury goes to one of the few people he can trust, namely Steve Rogers. Unfortunately, while there he is shot again and when trying to pursue the shooter, Cap encounters the Winter Solder for the first time.
I'm not going to give anything else away, but it soon develops that there is a faction within SHIELD that has its own agenda. One with a long history that goes back to WWII and Cap's early adventures with the Howling Commandos.
There are characters in the film that we have seen in the TV show Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and also in the first CA movie. (By the way, if you are one of those folks that gave up on Agents early on you might want to think about catching up and watching again. The show did some things that tied into both the first Avengers film and the second Thor movie, and now is closely tied into the events in this film.) It's always cool to see Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) in either films or the series. Now that she's free from HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER duties, I'm hoping we'll see more of her in the show.
Almost all the actors are great, with the exception of Garry Shandling (as Senator Stern) who pretty much mumbles his lines. I generally like Shandling's comedy and loved his show, but he just seems uncomfortable here. Pretty sure we'll be seeing Sam Wilson/The Falcon again and it wouldn't surprise me if Batroc and Agent Rollins are back in the third film, along with the Winter Soldier.
It continues to amaze me that folks are still walking out before the end credits. The main credits are followed by a scene which resolves some points and sets up things for the next AVENGERS film, with a couple of new characters. After the final credits there is another short scene with one of the characters that would lead into the third Cap feature. The theater was about half full during the matinee yesterday, and maybe a dozen folks stayed for the initial teaser with five folks, besides myself, sitting through until the final reveal.
Good selection of trailers prior to the film, with both the up-coming SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN films, as well as GODZILLA. The Scarlett Johansson SF film LUCY looks really good and shows that Hollywood is willing to gamble that she can open a feature. I hope it does well, since the announced BLACK WIDOW movie is a sure-thing for comic's fans.
Marvel is doing a great job with their films and it's a shame that DC can't seem to get their act together. On the other hand, CW's ARROW is fantastic and I have high hopes for both FLASH and GOTHAM.