Captain America takes on his biggest enemy yet - the US military-industrial complex - in this rip-roaring follow-up.

He’s no Tony Stark but as the Avengers’ clean cut, all-American hero, Steve Rogers is a reliable kinda guy. He’s more than tasty in a fight, wields a mean shield, and he looks damn good in that superhero onesie.

The first Capt. A movie was more than willing to send up the cornball patriotism/propaganda origin story of how seven stone weakling Rogers was turned into a Nazi-killing machine. And it did it with real chutzpah before morphing into a more run-of-the mill actioner.

It was an enjoyable romp but Marvel, the brand who have given us Iron Man and Avengers in recent years, have quickly become the home of excellence in the superhero market and the second Captain America movie was always going to have to be something special. The Russo brothers hold their nerve brilliantly here in a movie that rips along at a ferocious pace with a plot that’s more paranoid conspiracy thriller than mere superhero flick.

When we meet him again, Steve Rogers, played with a cool amusement by Chris Evans, is still a man out of time but he’s also a man deeply conflicted by his role in a modern world where America seems willing to sacrifice the cherished ideals of the Founding Fathers in the pursuit of global security. Corrupt politicians and compromised colonels roll around Washington in an age where the certainties of Rogers’ past are long gone. Dark forces are moving quickly and from the unlikeliest of quarters.

A skilfully-handled retaking of a hi-jacked ship is the curtain raiser here but it’s actually a ruse so that Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson back and still rocking that cat suit and red wig) can retrieve some vital tech for a shadowy S.H.I.E.L.D. super weapon that will rid the world of evil doers (and potential evil doers) once and for all.

After our hero goes through a personal crisis of Edward Snowden proportions, Captain America: The Winter Soldier plays a lot like a political thriller from 1975. The Russo brothers make neat visual references and in-jokes - the Watergate building is in shot several times, there is a nod to the brainwashing scene from The Manchurian Candidate, and the casting of Robert Redford (star of All The President’s Men and Three Days of The Condor) as suave S.H.I.E.L.D. head honcho is a real coup.

The only real let down here is The Winter Soldier himself. He’s the cyborg creation of the dread HYDRA, the very flipside of Captain America’s decency and valour but The Winter Solider is more like an emo having a strop. He’s a bad guy with a metal arm, very little screen presence, and a hidden identity that will come as little or no surprise to students of Marvel.

Anthony Mackie is smart and agile as Sam Wilson aka The Falcon and he is the centre of many of the exhilarating airborne battles here. This is great, great fun but great, great fun with a whip smart plot, bone-crunching fights, and a sparkling, twisty script - one day all superhero flicks will be made with the same verve and style.

Alan Corr