In Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), it was easy to see who the bad guys were. The Nazis. In the sequel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's not that clear.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier takes place after The Avengers. (2012) Captain America aka Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is still trying to catch up with the twenty first century after being frozen for over sixty years. His current occupation is to undertake missions from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a director of S.H.I.E.L.D. On a mission to rescue hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. tanker, he's accompanied by the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) aka Natasha Romanoff. She has a secret mission which is to recover data from the tanker's computers. She downloads the information onto a flash drive. Rogers confronts Fury about the secrecy of Romanoff's mission and he shows him what S.H.I.E.L.D. has been working on. Deep underground, S.H.I.E.D. has been building three helicarriers, similar to the one seen in The Avengers. They're designed to make preemptive strikes. After Fury cannot retrieve the data, he becomes the target of an assassination attempt. Wounded, he travels to Rogers apartment and gives Rogers he flash drive.
There's serious fish to fry in this popcorn movie. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely's screenplay asks some contemporary questions. How much freedom do you sacrifice to obtain more security? By the way, that theme should sound familiar to anyone who's seen Star Trek Into Darkness. (2013) The screenplay's story and plot points are more interesting than the action scenes. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo handle those action scenes well for the most part. But it's their use of fast cutting and hand-camera shots that detract. They're not needed and confuse the action. However, it's the mystery of the flash drive that drives this movie. And I was captivated by what was on that flash drive and the question of who was trying to kill Fury.
The cast is solid. Chris Evans is noble, idealistic and shows a lot of heart as Steve Rogers. Scarlett Johansson shows a lot of guts as the super spy Black Widow. There's also a spark between her and Rogers. Samuel L. Jackson again portrays Fury as the single minded director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nothing gets in the way to what he perceives as needed to maintain security. And look quickly for a Pulp Fiction Jules reference. Robert Redford makes a surprise appearance as a senior director of S.H.I.E.L.D. I would never have seen Redford in a big budget superhero movie. Let me just say this without giving anything away. He plays his character against type, more cerebral than emotional.
As for the 3D version of the film, avoid it. First, it's a conversion from 2D. There's no pop, just depth. Nothing in the movie in 3D made it special. Second, as stated before there's an overuse of hand-held camera shots. That's bad for 3D. Those shots don't look good in 3D because they're hard to capture the subjects. Additionally, they make moviegoers nauseous. I got mildly sick after watching some of the action scenes. It's similar to motion sickness.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a fine action packed and thought provoking film. I found the questions raised more compelling than all the explosions. The grade is A.