The problem with Captain America: The First Avenger was that it was too generic to be anything more than a serviceable comic book film. The big issue with The Winter Solider is that it tries far too hard to avoid being a by-the-numbers Marvel film that is comes off as a bit disingenuous. The script from Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Thor: The Dark World, Pain & Gain) crams a ton of different story arcs into just over two hours, making the film really muddled and hard-to-follow at points. I can't really go into the exact issues with the various storylines without divulging spoilers, let's just say the attempt at making this an espionage thriller backfired when it reveals the stupid, convoluted origin of the film's true antagonist (which contrary to the title, is not The Winter Soldier).
The Winter Solider is salvaged by the impressive acting ensemble and brilliantly-executed action sequences. Chris Evans has only gotten better as Steve Rodgers/Captain America in each film he's featured in. Evans goes beyond his typical charismatic self and dives into the more human side of the character this time around. The Winter Solider shows more of the struggle Rodgers has faced adjusting to life in the modern day and coping with the fact that everyone he ever loved is no longer with him. The new additions to the cast liven up the film with Anthony Mackie stealing the show as Captain America's sidekick and fellow ex-military man who goes by Falcon while Robert Redford chews up the scenery as Senator Alexander Pierce- who may or may not be against Captain America and his colleagues at S.H.I.E.L.D.
Directors Anthony and Joe Russo (You, Me & Dupree, NBC's Community) rise to the occasion in their first big-budget, non-comedy film. The Russo brothers show a confidence in capturing the massive scale of Captain America that emulates seasoned blockbuster veterans like Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. The action isn't as frequent as most superhero films, but every action scene is tense, unique and well-shot. The Winter Solider is not one of the better entries in the ever-expanding Marvel cannon, but it's still a pretty entertaining film with a great cast and a number of eye-popping action scenes.