It's really hard not to geek out when talking about this movie, but I'm going to do my best. It's good you guys. It's really fucking good.
It's not perfect. But for a guy like me, it's awfully close, and I can easily say that it's my favorite movie from the Marvel Studios. It has a lot of elements that I really enjoy in movies like this: Well-developed characters, a steady plot, great action, a wider message, and Batroc the Leaper.
I wanted to talk about the action in this movie as it is particularly amazing. Throughout the entire movie, they keep in mind the scale of the action sequences they're presenting, take great care to include tension into them and keep that tension rising, and uniquely utilize the characters' specific skillsets.
In the first Captain America movie and in The Avengers, you never really get a feel for what Steve Rogers can do fighting-wise. In this movie, they start the scale off small, with nameless hijackers, then slowly and steadily move up. With each fight scene, you get to understand a bit more about Steve's ability. Not only that, but since the following action sequence is "bigger" and more intense than the last, as an audience member, you always find yourself wondering if each task might prove to be too much. The movie starts out with nameless hijackers on a ship, and then a bunch of well-trained army-types in a small, cramped elevator. You see an elevator full of people with guns, stun batons and handcuffs surrounding Captain America and think, There's no way anyone could do this. And then he does. Then he fights a jet.
With this slow progression of action, the tension slowly increases as well, and this film has a great way of establishing different comparative levels of threats. It's hard to explain this, but stick with me. When they introduce The Winter Soldier, Captain America throws his shield at him and the Winter Soldier catches it, establishing that he is at least Captain America's equal. Later on, we see Winter Soldier get the drop on Steve, and the mathematical equation going on in your head is WS = CA, but WS + element of suprise > CA. And then, WS + element of surprise >> CA - shield. And then, WS + element of surprise + knife >>> CA - shield. You never quite feel that Cap has a handle on the events going on around him, and he's just two steps away from getting his ass kicked.
Speaking of getting his ass kicked, battle damage. Captain America at the end of a fight does not look like Captain America at the beginning of a fight. You may think this is a small point, but it goes a long way towards establishing the danger to your super-powered perfect soldier if he has a broken nose at the end of a fight instead of perfect hair.
They end up with three action heroes by the end of the movie, and they thankfully prevent all three of them from fighting in the same ways. Black Widow fights like an assassin, with moves designed to end a fight quickly. Falcon, despite being not the first flying superhero in a movie capable of holding guns, is the first superhero that actually puts those two together. I was amazed to see him doing something so simple as "flying backwards and shooting at the same time" because despite the obviousness of it, was not used by the makers of any Iron Man movies or the X-Men 3 movie. And, in the first movie, Captain America didn't use the shield much besides for blocking and throwing. Here, he's bouncing it off of things, using the edge of it to cut through metal, breaking through walls, and so on. I'm glad they put more thought into it besides "He throws it at stuff and hits stuff."