*** out of ****
The direct sequel to 2011's fantastic Captain America: The First Avenger plays like a modern action movie/spy thriller. It doesn't have the first film's charm and '30s/'40s serial vibe, but still, it's an entertaining film carried by the charisma of actor Chris Evans, who is perfect in the role of the Marvel comics hero.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Evans) is still struggling to settle into the 21st century after being frozen for nearly 70 years. When the security of the law-enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised by HYDRA, Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) find themselves on the run. A villain with the same super powers as Rogers is on their trail. This new nemesis is known as The Winter Soldier, and Rogers is trying to find out his true identity. Meanwhile, the fugitives find an ally in Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), who has a military-issue flying contraption that turns him into the Falcon.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me and Dupree) go for action here as expected, and my requisite for action movies is that the set-pieces are inventive and memorable. And yes, in The Winter Soldier they are. There is a great car chase between super-spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and HYDRA scum. Another is a fight between Captain America and more HYDRA scum in the confines of an elevator. Now, that crazy shaky-cam is present, but it's not to the extreme where you can't see what's going on.
Evans and Johansson are fun together. They have good chemistry. However, I would have liked to have seen more thought go into the scene between Rogers and his one time love, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), who is now an elderly woman.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier does deliver the goods. It has lots of action, star power and a great villain in, of all people, Robert Redford.