Okay, so let me start this one off by saying this has little to nothing to do with the 'Infinity War' story either, in comparison to my criticism about 'Iron Man 3'. However, this does tie in very nicely with 'Agents of SHIELD' and lets us know what's going on with all of that since the events of 'The Avengers'. Timeline-wise, this apparently fits in two years after 'The Avengers' took place.
Bringing things over to Washington, DC, Steve Rogers is now working for S.H.I.E.L.D. as Captain America, and doing what's right and just. In his spare time, he's catching up on things, and adjusting to modern society. During a hostage rescue mission on board a S.H.I.E.L.D ship, Rogers finds that Romanoff has her own mission; to get some computer data for his new boss, Nick Fury. Upon confronting Fury about this, he's told about Project Insight, which involves three Hellicarriers linked to spy satellites in order to prevent incoming threats. When Fury is unable to distinguish what Romanoff has brought him, he becomes suspicious, and is soon ambushed by someone known as The Winter Soldier.
Soon enough, shit hits the fan. For starters, It is learned that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised from the inside out by non other than Cap's old rival Nazi branch, Hydra. But what's more than that, there's something about this Winter Soldier guy all too familiar to Cap. Of course, it wouldn't exactly be a spoiler at this point to reveal that he ends up being his old friend, Bucky, who survived a deadly fall in the first film due to whatever they did to him before he was found. Sorry if that's any kind of spoiler, but it's time to come out from under that rock.
What's interesting here is that this, much like 'Iron Man 3' or 'Thor 2', also has quite a bit going on in it, and is admittedly pretty busy as well. However this just ends up being more memorable, and a bit easier to follow (speaking for myself) in the end. Primarily, this is just a matter of a couple of major things - S.H.I.E.L.D. gets taken over by Hydra after a big master plan, Cap, Black Widow, Fury and Hill all have to deal with it in their way. Although Hill isn't exactly a big part of it. And on top of that you have the Cap/Winter Soldier story. The rest of it can manage to take a back seat quite comfortably. For example introducing Falcon goes so smoothly, despite a bit of a lack of screen time, I still see the guy as a total badass. All he wants to do is help, and he throws himself right into the mix showing how courageous he is. May I say, an underrated character!
This is one of my favorites of the entire Marvel saga. The whole idea of Hydra taking over makes for so much darkness, the relationship between Cap and Bucky, and giving Fury, Widow and Falcon some decent screen time and development, and some pretty breathtaking action sequences make this one just a cut above the rest.
Once again, out of the Marvel trilogies that exist so far, 'Cap' is by far my favorite one. This film is where the Russo brothers came into play, who would also direct 'Civil War' and are helming 'Infinity War' plus the 'Avengers' film after that. In other words, they're the new Joss Whedon to this whole series. This movie proved that despite having a bunch of stuff to work with and making it all fit, it could still be done well. This is most likely why these guys have been chosen to helm 'Infinity War'. It was nice to see the MCU shaping up again, and we looked forward to that next 'Avengers' flick again. But the next film in line would introduce a whole new team of mostly unknown characters who very well could have fallen on their asses and failed.
MID-CREDIT SCENE: Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, (Thomas Kretschmann) is at a Hydra lab, proclaiming that the "age of miracles" has begun. Scientists can be seen examining what can be recognized as Loki's scepter. Meanwhile, two test subjects are shown caged up, one with super speed, and one with telekinetic ability. We recognize them as Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). This is a tease for who will be featured in 'Age of Ultron'.
POST-CREDIT SCENE: Bucky is seen wandering a war museum display that highlights Steve Rogers as Captain America, and discovers who he really is.