"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" rolls brains and brawn into one perfect package, quenching my fan girl thirst for explosive set pieces while engaging my adult intellect with a gripping international espionage plot.
The story picks up after the battle for New York as portrayed in "Marvel's The Avengers." We learn SHIELD is rotting from the inside out, and Cap (Chris Evans) must team with Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow to expose the conspiracy. Johansson, Evans, and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) are stronger than ever, grounding the complex "cost of freedom" debate with equally complex performances.
Until now, I would never picture masks and capes in the same frame with one of the legends of the spy thriller genre -- Robert Redford, who lends major legitimacy to the film as SHIELD Agent Alexander Pierce.
Another welcomed addition to the cast is Anthony Mackie as the Falcon, Cap's charismatic wingman who aids in the fight against the Winter Soldier, an ominous new nemesis and familiar face.
The capable cast enlivens the film's truly inventive fight choreography while immersive hand-held camera work hurls us right into the heart of the action.
For Captain America fans this is the movie that will put the First Avenger in a league of his own in the Marvel pack. But even if you're not really into superheroes, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is just a great, action-packed thriller, period.