In Fairness: 8/10 (as always, spoilers ahead)
Here is an interesting entry to the Marvel franchise because it is both a standalone film and a sequel; a continuation of the overarching story-line as well as an individual chapter. Someone totally new to the superhero genre or the Marvel Cinematic Universe could watch this film and still understand what is going on – but it will also work perfectly for all the avid fans who have seen the previous films and read their namesake comic books.
The smart thing that was done with Winter Solider was to make it a human story dressed up in a superhero film. It’s not so much about the wow factor as it is about the people within the story. And since then Marvel seems to have caught on to this principle and started to apply it to its other films. What this ends up doing is elevating what might have been just a typical action flick, a superhero bonanza, and turning it into a real story worth telling, and a movie worth watching.
While it has its slow moments, a first viewing will be anything but boring if you can decide to care about the characters. The thing I find all too often these days is that people won’t watch a movie for the characters, they’ll just watch it for the spectacle. The film’s pacing is excellent, and it harkens back to spy thrillers of the Robert Redford area – Redford himself appearing as a S.H.I.E.L.D. government administrator as if to validate the tone of the movie. There are some moments of real tension mixed in as well as quite the epic building-smashing finale, although you actually care about the destruction a good bit more than you did in The Avengers. What you have here is a well-directed, well-crafted thriller that happens to be taking place in a superhero world. And since superheroes are “super” it does add certain heights to this kind of movie that you wouldn’t have if it was set in the real world.
CRAFTSMANSHIP: As with all the Marvel films, craftsmanship of the film is very sufficient and quality. The music, production design and sound design are all professional and quality. But what really stands out is the directing. The Russo brothers have crafted a film here that has real moments; of excitement, of tension, of despair – here is the superhero film that actually flows like an artful movie. Their unique take on this superhero escapade turns it into a white elephant among the genre, a superhero film that tackles topics of government control, civil liberty and grey morality in a modern world where things are no longer clearly black and white.