"Captain America: The Winter Solider" 4 stars (out of four)
The latest chapter in Marvel's ever-powerful superhero series may very well be the best so far – even better than the 2012 extravaganza "The Avengers." Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers/Captain America, and like he did in "The Avengers," the World War II-bred super soldier continues to struggle with his place in the modern world. Even more unsettling to Rogers, though, is the seemingly disturbing direction S.H.I.E.L.D. is taking under the auspices of agency heavy Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford).
While Evans skillfully anchors his third go-round as Captain America, co-writers Christopher Markus and Steven McFeely expertly populate the world of this super sequel with engaging subplots involving Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Natasha Rominoff/The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the titular Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) -- Cap's former friend, Bucky Barnes, who was turned into a killing machine by the villainous Nazi organization Hydra. Anthony Mackie makes a smashing debut in the Marvel movie universe as Sam Wilson, a military veteran who sports a high-tech set of wings that enables him to take flight as the Falcon.
Directed with vigor by brothers Anthony and Joe Russo, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is worth saluting as a smart, forward-thinking and thrilling superhero action-adventure that ups the ante for future films in the genre.