Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is working for SHIELD and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) in Washington. Rogers and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) are sent with SHIELD’s STRIKE Team (Special Tactical Reserve for International Key Emergencies) to free hostages held by mercenaries on a ship. Rogers discovers that Romanoff is also there to extract information, and he confronts Fury about her secret mission. He is told about Project Insight and Fury’s concern that SHIELD may be compromised.
Fury is ambushed and killed by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stands) and Rogers is hunted by STRIKE as a traitor. He meets with Romanoff and they travel to a secret SHIELD bunker in New Jersey. Data shows that ever since World War II, Hydra has secretly been part of SHIELD. In fact, the SHIELD Secretary of Internal Security is Hydra’s leader.
Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) also called the Falcon because of his wing-pack. They are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, whom Captain America realizes is his childhood friend Bucky Barnes, whom he thought dead since World War II. Fury is, of course, not dead, and plans to sabotage the global-data-gathering SHIELD Helicarriers, as a Hydra threat to the world.
The whole movie is a spy story, with Steve Rogers the high-minded innocent trying to work with the brutally pragmatic Nick Fury and the largely amoral Black Widow without compromising his old-fashioned beliefs. There is much brutal gunfighting and choreographed mayhem throughout, climaxing with three enormous Helicarriers, high over Washington, filled with SHIELD bigwigs and two clashing highly-trained armies, each convinced it is fighting for world-peace against criminal terrorists, as the heroes try to re-program the ships to fire on each other rather than the Capital city below. It ends with all three ships crashing in flames, as Captain America battles his oldest friend. In the mid-and-end credits scenes, Fury, still thought dead by the world, sets out for Europe to continue the battle against Hydra, and our old X-Men foe Von Strucker reveals two test subjects—one with super-speed and one with telekinetic powers.
The movie was based on Marvel’s Winter Soldier story arc by Ed Brubaker. It was directed by the Russo Brothers. Bucky Barnes had been Captain America’s sidekick in Captain America Comics 1941, but he grew up fast and appeared in many Marvel titles over the years, until he became the Winter Soldier in his own series. Later, he secretly replaced Captain America when the later was temporarily killed off. Stan Lee hated the whole idea of the youthful sidekick, believing that no true hero would put a child into such danger. I never associated with youthful sidekicks, myself—only with the hero—and I always found them patronising and irritating.