Things at SHIELD (The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) are going pretty well. At least that's what most think.
After the Battle of New York (the alien invasion that took place in The Avengers) SHIELD is getting ready to launch three new, heavily weaponized helicarriers (flying aircraft carriers) that will be linked to a satellite network allowing them to track any insurgents in the world and take them out before they can make a move. Things seem pretty great, but Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, has a bad feeling about the whole project. Cap's bad feelings are soon confirmed when Director Nick Fury is suddenly murdered by a mysterious assassin known as “The Winter Soldier.” Now Cap and Natasha, aka Black Widow, are on the run, SHIELD has been compromised, and the Winter Soldier is on their tail. *Spoilers ahead*
Captain America fights for freedom so it makes sense the antagonists are trying to stifle just that: freedom. When director Fury tells Cap about their ability to take out anyone in the world before they become a threat, Cap points out that holding a gun to everyone's head isn't freedom, but fear. Ultimate power ultimately corrupts, and that kind of power should not be in the hands of anyone. It is later revealed that Cap's arch foe, the old Nazi organization HYDRA, has been growing within SHIELD like a parasite and using the guise of “security” to control the world and take the lives of millions.
Truth and self-sacrifice are two strong themes. “The truth is a matter of circumstance. It's not all things to all people, all of the time,” says Natasha. Cap counters that not living an honest life is a tough way to live and that it is hard to trust people when you don't know who they really are. Natasha later comes full circle when she decides to sacrifice the secrecy of her shady past to bring the baddies to justice.
Cap's friends are extremely loyal, willing to stand with him in the fight against HYDRA and willing to compromise their own lives to prevent the death of millions. Cap calls for any true SHIELD agents left to stand for freedom. “...the price of freedom is high,” he says, “It always has been. And it's a price I'm willing to pay. And if I'm the only one, then so be it. But I'm willing to bet I'm not.” His courage in the midst of great conflict inspires others to do the same.
This is definitely an action thriller. It is filled with shooting, explosions, smashing, punching, running, and plenty of vehicular carnage to boot.
Cap takes out baddies with a few whacks of the shield, punches, and a throwing knife. Both he and Natasha are very efficient with fighting moves and various weaponry. They also take quite a beating from various foes in turn. One man murders his housekeeper so she won't reveal he's a double agent. Another is thrown into oncoming traffic and hit by a semi-truck. A soldier is thrown into the turbine of a jet.
Director Fury also takes a beating from some fake police officers and is later taken out by a sniper.
There is an average amount of language for a PG-13 film including two s-words and a handful of other profanities. Cap and Natasha kiss to complete a disguise. A flashback sequence shows how HYDRA experimented on the Winter Soldier to turn him into a weapon. In another scene scientists erase his memory with a device that shocks his brain.
The first Captain America film got a lot of flack. While it was a lot of fun, good ole Captain America is not as explosive or impressive as, say, Thor or Ironman. He's basically just a strong dude with a superb moral code. So when Marvel moved on to phase two and came to their shield-wielding hero's second film, they had to take things up a notch. What is a notch above a superhero movie? Why, an action spy thriller, of course. Which is exactly what Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, and boy does it deliver.
That's not to say that Captain America's moral code isn't as impressive as the action in this film. Cap's integrity ultimately leads him to the point were he is willing to sacrifice his life: the ultimate act of selflessness. It's the kind of selflessness that Christ displayed when he came to die for the sins of humanity. It's the kind of selflessness that real heroes display. No flashy super powers required.