Washington D.C., present day.
Steve Rogers/Captain America works as an agent of SHIELD. Along with Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, and SHIELD agents supervised by agent Brock Rumlow, Cap and his team rescue a SHIELD vessel (one of the hostages is SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell) from Batroc the Leaper and his men. During the mission, the Black Widow secretly uploads encrypted SHIELD data from the vessel computers to a pen drive, as per Nick Fury's commands. Cap was unaware of her secret agenda, and takes the matter to Fury. He apologizes for not being transparent with Cap, and to ease him, Fury takes Cap to a secret underground bunker where three new super helicarriers with an amazing fire power were constructed. SHIELD intends to use these flying super weapons against criminals. But Cap believes SHIELD is crossing the line in its fight for freedom.
On a personal level, Steve Rogers feels lost. The values he treasures now seem awkward or out of fashion so he finds some comfort reliving his past. He visits the section about himself in the National Aerospace Museum. Or he speaks with Peggy Carter, his love interest from the first movie (the agent he missed his dance date with) but she is a very old lady now. Adding to his sorrow, Cap still mourns the death of his life-time friend, James "Bucky" Barnes, who perished in the first movie during a mission against HYDRA.
Happiness is a riddle too tough for Cap to decipher.
Fortunately, he befriends Sam Wilson, a veteran and a nice guy who helps other soldiers with their traumas from wars. Wilson has a very high esteem and respect for Cap.
When Fury is unable to decipher the data in the pen drive, he realizes something very wrong is going on, and calls Maria Hill for a secret meeting. But while driving downtown D.C., Fury is furiously attacked by a SWAT squad and police officers. His computer-guided fortified SUV, allows him to escape. Yet he is intercepted by the Winter Soldier, a masked super soldier with a mechanical arm, who manages to stop the vehicle with a hand bomb. Fury escapes through a manhole.
Returning to his home, Steve has a short conversation with a cute lady neighbor, and then finds Fury in his apartment. Fury tells Steve SHIELD has been compromised, and gives him the pen drive. At that moment, Fury is shot several times in the back through the window, and falls mortally wounded. The cute neighbor enters gun in hand, telling Rogers she is a SHIELD agent, Agent 13. Cap follows the attacker, and reaches him in the terrace. It is the Winter Soldier. Cap throws his shield at him, but the villain catches it effortlessly, and throws it back to Cap with enormous power. The villain merges into the night.
Doctors try reviving Fury to no avail, and he is pronounced dead. Cap meets Alexander Pierce, a senior SHIELD officer, and friend of Fury. Pierce asks Cap why Fury was at his apartment. But remembering Fury's advice of not trusting anyone, Cap does not tell Pierce about the pen drive, and takes off. Pierce considers Cap a fugitive and orders SHIELD agents to capture him. Cap makes that impossible and escapes.
Natasha helps Cap read the pen drive revealing the location of a secret, old military headquarter with vintage computer systems. When they reach it, they are greeted by Arnim Zola, the Red Skull's scientist who was captured by the Americans in the 40s...
But Zola speaks to them from a computer monitor. Zola explains that when he was diagnosed with a fatal illness in the 70s, he devised a way to transfer his mind into computer systems. He also reveals that HYDRA has been secretly infiltrating SHIELD for decades. During that time, they helped cause numerous violent incidents throughout the world to convince the general population that a controlling government is their best bet to be safe. In other words, people willing to give away their freedom in exchange for safety.
SHIELD discovers Cap and the Black Widow’s whereabouts, and destroys the headquarters with a missile. But the duo managed to enter a hole in time to save their lives. Escaping from SHIELD, they go to Wilson's house who decides to help them using the Falcon, a winged metal harness that allows him to fly.
Pierce is visited at his house by the Winter Soldier. When the maid sees the villain by accident, Pierce shoots her dead.
Cap, the Black Widow and Falcon discover that SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell, and Senator Stern, are both HYDRA agents. Sitwell is pushed to reveal that HYDRA plans to use the helicarriers to kill millions of Americans based on an algorithm devised by Zola.
This formula can locate people who may prove a threat to HYDRA's plans, based on information found in their digital records (medical records, social site profiles, etc.)
The helicarriers are to be launched by Pierce in a few days. The heroes bring Sitwell along for a ride when they are attacked by the Winter Soldier, and a number of SHIELD agents, including Brock Rumlow. Cap fights the Winter Soldier and when his mask drops, Cap discovers that the villain is none other than Bucky Barnes, his best friend from the 40s! Barnes does not recognize Rogers (he has been brainwashed by HYDRA), but he does find Rogers' face to be familiar. Cap, Natasha and Wilson are captured by SHIELD, and driven in a secure van to SHIELD headquarters. But Maria Hill, disguised as one of the captors inside the van, rescues them and the group stealthily escapes.
At a secret lab, the Winter Soldier has some memories of Rogers and how he became a metal arm super soldier. But Pierce gives orders to brainwash him again.
The heroes go to an obscure lair near a dam where they find Nick Fury, alive yet severely wounded from the attack. Fury used a drug devised by Dr. Bruce Banner to lower his heartbeat so as to fake his death. He gives the team a set of computer cards that can neutralize the helicarriers. Cap and Natasha decide that if they are to defeat HYDRA, SHIELD must disappear as well since it's been compromised at all levels. Fury painfully agrees.
Pierce invites members of the World Security Council to witness the launching of the helicarriers, a great event in the supposed name of peace. On board, SHIELD/HYDRA agents run the computers to locate nearly a million individuals in the D.C. area, all potential enemies of HYDRA, according to Zola's algorithm. The helicarrier guns aim at their targets.
In the meantime, Captain America and the Falcon manage to connect Nick Fury's cards in two of the helicarriers. But when the third helicarrier is approached, the Winter Soldier defeats the Falcon by destroying his wings, and then fights Captain America to a standstill. Though mightier, the Winter Soldier succumbs to Cap's attack, who wounded by shots and all, is able to connect the third card. At that moment, Maria Hill is able to reconfigure the helicarriers to replace the citizen targets (about a million), with three new targets: the helicarriers themselves. The flying powerhouses start shooting at each other.
In Pierce's office, the Black Widow, disguised as a member of the World Security Council, neutralizes all SHIELD/HYDRA agents. Nick Fury enters, obligating Pierce to open a channel that will allow Natasha to disclose SHIELD's helicarrier plan to the public on the web. Fury later shoots Pierce dead.
The destroyed helicarriers start falling to the ground. One hits the SHIELD building, where Wilson and Rumlow were fighting. Wilson makes it out of the crumbling building in the nick of time, but Rumlow is severely wounded and burned.
Cap and the Winter Soldier are on board of a helicarrier that's still in the air. Cap discovers that the villain is trapped under a heavy metal beam, and helps him out of it. Nevertheless, the Winter Soldier attacks Cap, who takes off his mask, lets go of his shield, and tries to make Barnes remember that they were once best friends. The Winter Soldier refuses to listen, and hits Cap hard, and Cap decides not to fight back. Cap finally falls unconscious to the water from up high, and it is the Winter Soldier who rescues him, leaving him on a safe spot on the shore.
Cap later wakes up in a hospital room, and Wilson, his newly found friend and teammate, is right next to him. A few days after HYDRA was defeated, Cap, Wilson, Natasha and Nick Fury meet at the Fury’s grave. Natasha gives Cap a folder containing information about the Winter Soldier project. Nick Fury will travel to Europe to locate HYDRA bases. Natasha takes off on her own to find new adventures. And Captain America and the Falcon decide to look for the Winter Soldier.
-- Synopsis by: Julio MM
Review by Peter S: Oh man! Man oh man! This movie is exactly what I wanted: It showcases the heroics of Captain America while echoing the tone of the Ed Brubaker years on the comics, with its gritty take on SHIELD and Steve’s growing disenchantment with morally questionable service to his country. Chris Evans is absolutely perfect as Steve and the film shows him off to great effect; Scarlett Johanssen is ideal as Black Widow (and there are a couple of comically romantic moments between the two); newcomer Anthony Mackie is great as the Falcon, a partner but not a sidekick. And the scenes of the Winter Soldier himself are terrific, Steve Epting’s illustration steps right off the page into the movie. The action scenes are outstanding (if a little overlong and chaotic) and the theme of "trust no one" is brought out admirably. Sorry I’m gushing too much—so there is one thing I was disappointed in: despite having his name in the film’s title, the story really doesn’t focus on Winter Soldier; instead, he plays the role of "Villain’s Top Henchman," they need another film to address all of his issues. Anyway, there is much to enjoy (Brock Rumlow? Will he be Crossbones in Cap 3? Was Agent 13 supposed to be Sharon Carter? Did anyone expect them to bring back Gary Shandling as the obnoxious senator from IRON MAN 2?) and I can’t wait to see where the story goes in AVENGERS 2!