Tucked into a pocket of his workout sweats, Steve Rogers -- aka Captain America, the serum-enhanced Yankee Doodle Dynamo who's spent six decades in deep freeze -- keeps a notebook of cultural beats he's missed: Star Wars, Marvin Gaye, Thai food. If only he'd added '70s conspiracy thrillers to his list. First, so he could tell his boss's boss, Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), "Hey, anyone ever tell you you look like that guy from Three Days of the Whatchamalit?" And second, so he'd realize sooner that he's been plunged into one.
Under the watch of S.H.I.E.L.D., the government agency at which he reservedly works, the planet's nearly been destroyed six times in four years. No wonder bigwig Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is rushing the launch of three massive drones programmed to neutralize threats before they attack. Fury warns that the 21st century's battle lines are no longer as obvious as WWII's. Cap's either with S.H.I.E.L.D. or against it, and soon, some of S.H.I.E.L.D. decides its against him.
The script is solid, and the fight scenes are excellent. The Winter Soldier is the first Marvel film in forever that doesn't climax with heroes mowing down a horde of non-human nobodies. This is bone on bone on that vibranium shield, which thwangs satisfyingly as it ricochets around before conking a villain — Cap's like a pool shark plunking the eight-ball. Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow seduces him, only half-successfully, to join the modern age. Marvel doesn't consider her important or male enough to earn a love interest herself, but even if she never gets to have any sex, the camera certainly makes love to her.