Given the compromising position S.H.I.E.L.D. was in at the end of The Avengers, there was only one way this film could go - and it's a credit to Marvel that they went the whole hog, getting arch-liberal Robert Redford to play against type as the villain. My fellow movie-watcher, long-time comrade and true believer remarked that the major flaw with the film is how black and white the conflict ended up being. Redford could not just be himself, he had to be the head of a 60-year-old Hydra conspiracy as well. If you had to have Hydra there (to link back to the battles of the first film and hammer home the difference between the state Steve Rodgers fought for and the one he is now fighting against) they could have played a more muted role. Perhaps Redford could have been Zola's dupe - someone who betrayed his country in order to achieve that vision of absolute security. The film's failure is that it didn't give Redford the space to articulate just how seductive that vision can be.
I don't tend to watch a lot of action films, but do think this is one of the best I've seen. I'm paying a compliment when I say the competence on display was dazzling. The directors are most well known for television comedy, but they prove that that's no barrier to really solid stacks of gunfights, car chases and lightning-fast fisticuffs. At points it reminded me of Bad Boys II (again, a compliment) were the sequences pile up without the pile ever feeling too big.
The actors also play their (little more than) functional roles perfectly, their modest little arcs neatly composed in tidy satisfying packages - like an assortment of delicacies in a bento box. Chris Evans is brilliant in what is a tricky part to pull off. Being Mr Sincere in such an arch film can slip into parody, and to his credit there were very few times in which he reminded me of a pre-self-aware Buzz Lightyear. Again, it's a compliment.