The problem with Captain America: The First Avenger was director Joe Johnston was too enamored with the character that he lost track of the story and it turned out to be just OK. Winter Soldier is an entirely different beast that is complex, action-packed and a blast from beginning to end that makes good use of it's stellar cast.
Once again, Chris Evans is back as our patriotic hero, Captain America who now works with S.H.I.E.L.D trying to infiltrate HYDRA that has continued into the modern era. Put on a mission to track down a S.H.I.E.L.D vessel, he finds out information about Project: INSIGHT that get Nick Fury's (Samuel L. Jackson) attention. Fury then brings it to the attention of senior advisor Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) and then let the twists and turns commence. Meanwhile, his alter ego Steve Rogers is having trouble adjusting from 1945 even trying to ask a girl out is a chore for him. Luckily, he has Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) to get advice from and also kick tons of ass with. HYDRA has unleashed a super soldier of their own known as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) while S.H.I.E.L.D has been compromised. Have they ever heard of a background check? Seriously.
Credit to Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely for fleshing out the characters and actually giving everyone something to work with in their characters. Evans continues to embody our hero physically built like a brick house and emotionally bringing depth throughout the film. You actually see through his leadership skills and independence that he still is trying to understand what today's soldiers are going through especially Sam Wilson (solidly played by Anthony Mackie) whom Rogers meets on a run and beats easily just by saying "To the left!" We also dived into how the Winter Soldier became who he is and even using human themes to make it's point. Jackson delivers as always, Johanssen works well with Evans, and Redford always dependable channeling his character as seriously as he did in 1976's All the President's Men.
Director Anthony and Joe Russo have a better grasp on it's 175 mil budget than it's predecessor focusing on balance between character exchanges, plot unravelings and when to let the fists fly. Left me speechless was the numerous action sequences that will engage you and your popcorn chomping self asking for more. Mixing in car chases, hand to hand combat, standoffs, and gun battles wonderfully. Especially, when Cap uses his shield, it's so cool that you may run out, create your own but hit a gym first.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier succeeds over it's predecessor in story, character, and action with Chris Evans cementing himself as the man to play Captain America and blow us away with well-executed action sequences that defines bad-ass. Even clocking at 2 hrs 20 min, it knows how to deliver the goods and if anyone doesn't agree just say "To the left." and run by them.
Bonus: Stay after the credits and enjoy the many Marvel references.