Captain America: The Winter Soldier Beat Sheet
Opening Image: In the early morning hours, Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) jogs past Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), the Washington Monument in the background. It is the dawn of a new day, and the beginning of a new journey for Steve.
Set-Up: Steve introduces himself to Sam before Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) picks him up for another mission from S.H.I.E.L.D. Pirates have taken over a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel, the Lemurian Star, and have taken hostages, including Agent Jasper Sitwell. As Steve and his team liberate the hostages, Natasha backs up S.H.I.E.L.D. data from the ship’s computers, acting on orders from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). At the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, Steve confronts Fury about lying, his lack of trust, and keeping secrets. In Steve’s thesis world, trust is clear-cut for him.
Theme Stated: Fury takes Steve to the lower levels of the Triskelion, bypassing security clearances. On the way down, he tells of how his grandfather witnessed changes in his neighborhood over time, forcing him to change the way he views the world. “Granddad loved people,” he tells Steve, “but he didn’t trust them very much.” The theme of trust will carry this narrative, causing Steve to question his idealism in a world where moral lines are blurred.
Catalyst: Fury shows Steve Project Insight, a top-secret initiative involving three next-generation helicarriers whose satellites were launched from the Lemurian Star.
Debate: Steve argues that Insight is nothing more than holding a gun to the head of everyone on the planet, providing a false sense of freedom while masquerading as protection. Fury counters that Steve’s generation used questionable methods to protect the world 70 years ago and that he should get with the program. Questioning his place in the modern day, Steve visits the Smithsonian exhibit on Captain America and the Howling Commandos, watching videos on his friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). He visits an elderly Peggy in the hospital, discussing his concerns with her. Before slipping into a moment of memory loss, she tells him, “The world has changed, and none of us can go back. We must do our best, and sometimes the best we can do is start over.”
Nick Fury tries to open the Lemurian Star launch file from the flash drive recovered by Romanoff, but it is strangely sealed under his name. Questioning this, he confronts Defense Secretary Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford), a member of the World Security Council, and asks him to delay Project Insight.
Break into Two: Driving through D.C., Fury is pulled over by police officers and attacked. As he attempts to escape, a figure in black shoots a magnetic bomb that flips his vehicle over. Fury escapes and finds refuge in Steve’s apartment.
B Story: The B Story will follow Steve’s relationship with the past and the individuals from it, as well as how it affects the way he responds in the modern day. His past will help him define what trust is and how he demonstrates it.
Fun and Games: Steve meets Fury in the apartment, and Fury uses his phone to let Steve know that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. Fury is shot, and as he gives Steve the flash drive, he advises Steve not to trust anyone. Steve pursues the shooter, the same man who blew up Fury’s vehicle. At the hospital, he and Natasha watch as Fury dies, and Steve is called back to S.H.I.E.L.D. for immediate questioning. Before leaving, he hides the flash drive in a vending machine. In his antithesis world, Steve becomes the detective trying to solve the secret behind Nick Fury’s murder, unsure of who to trust. At the Triskelion, Pierce attempts to cast doubt on Fury’s character and motives. As Steve boards the elevator to leave, several S.H.I.E.L.D. agents attempt to assassinate him. He escapes, and Pierce informs S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that Steve had lied and is a fugitive. Returning to the hospital, Steve finds that the flash drive has been taken by Natasha, who tells him about the man who killed Fury, known only as the Winter Soldier. As Pierce convinces the World Security Council to immediately reactivate Project Insight, Steve and Natasha discover the file’s source of origin: Wheaton, New Jersey.
Midpoint: Steve and Natasha arrive in Wheaton at the familiar location of Steve’s old army base. As A and B Stories cross, Steve is reminded of his past and where his journey began. The two find a secret basement, and amid the ancient technology is a modern USB hub. The flash drive activates the computers, bringing forth the consciousness of Hydra scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones). Zola reveals that Hydra has lived on as a parasite inside S.H.I.E.L.D. for the past 70 years, convincing people to surrender their freedoms in a chaotic world. The stakes are raised and a time clock appears: once the purification is complete, a new world order will arise from Zola’s algorithm in the computer file.
Bad Guys Close In: Discovering the enemy’s base was a false victory, and they are immediately on the run. Pierce commands the Winter Soldier to take out the two within 10 hours, another time clock. Steve and Natasha find shelter with Sam Wilson, and the two face their own internal bad guys, questioning their past alliances and deeds. They deduce that Jasper Sitwell is part of Hydra, and using Sam’s Falcon suit, they get him to confess about Zola’s algorithm. Sitwell reveals that the digital nature of the 21st century allows the algorithm to use people’s past to predict their future as a threat to Hydra, allowing the Insight helicarriers to rid the world of a few million at a time. On the highway, the Winter Soldier attacks the car, and Steve fights the assassin, ripping off his mask to reveal the face of Bucky Barnes. The three heroes are taken in by S.H.I.E.L.D. forces, only to be freed by an undercover Agent Hill, who takes them to a safe location where Fury is found to be alive. Meanwhile, Bucky’s internal bad guys surface as his memories of Steve are triggered, prompting Hydra to wipe them clean.
All Is Lost: The whiff of death is in the air for millions of people; Project Insight will soon commence.
Dark Night of the Soul: Fury and the team plan to switch the three targeting chips in the helicarriers as Steve takes this dark turn by going against S.H.I.E.L.D. He struggles, realizing he might not be able to face Bucky again.
Break into Three: Steve takes his World War II Captain America uniform from the Smithsonian, a symbol of him entering his synthesis world, trusting in himself and his own judgment to solve a modern problem.
Finale: As the World Security Council arrives to launch Project Insight, Steve breaks into S.H.I.E.L.D. and gives a speech over the intercom, urging agents not to launch the helicarriers. Although agents resist, Hydra operatives launch them. Steve and Sam fight and switch two of the targeting chips. As Pierce tries to convince the Council of his agenda, Romanoff reveals herself as one of them in disguise. In a high tower surprise, The Winter Soldier fights Steve, but Steve prevails in stopping Insight while Fury stops Pierce.
As the helicarrier begins to crash, Steve digs, deep down, tossing his shield away and embracing his own morals, refusing to fight Bucky. He falls into the Potomac but is rescued by Bucky, waking up in a hospital.
Final Image: At Fury’s fake gravesite, Romanoff gives Steve files from Kiev about Bucky. With his new ally Sam, he will search for his friend from his past.