Craig, Daniel Craig - The Verdict
Okay, I admit it. I'm impressed. My skepticism has proven utterly unfounded. Daniel Craig makes an excellent James Bond. I'm not ready to abandon Pierce Brosnan as my favorite Bond, but during the movie I was like "Pierce who?"
This Bond is the roughest since Sean Connery. Rougher even. No time for wisecracks or double entendres. This Bond is all brutality, recklessness, and increasing vulnerability. And I loved it.
Casino Royale provides an effective back story to explain his character. How else to create the cold-hearted lady-killer (that's only mostly a figure of speech with James Bond) than to have his heart ripped out? Eva Green is excellent as Vesper Lynd. I can see how a rookie Bond would fall in love with her. In fact, it's a lot easier to see how Bond can fall in love with her than with the other love of his life, the short-lived Tracy Di Vicenzo/Tracy Bond of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. I never saw what was so different about Tracy as a Bond girl that he would fall in love with her. Vesper is Bond's psychological equal...catching him at a time when he's less seasoned, more vulnerable. She sizes him up as easily as he does her. And her early repulsion toward him doesn't come off as an act...like it does for every other Bond girl. And the betrayal/non-betrayal/death is enough to drive him as a tortured, cold-hearted government agent for decades to come.
The action sequences were just as spectacular (in the sense of "really good" and in the sense of "full of spectacle") as any Bond film. So I wasn't disappointed on that front.
As usual, the "timeline" of Bond is non-existent. Even though he's brand new...the events in his "future" like Dr No somehow take place during the Cold War. He meets Felix Leiter for the "first time" in this....and in Dr. No. Judi Dench's M - the third M - is somehow the M who is present in his first adventure.
I've always loved most of the trappings of Bond - the gadgets, Miss Monnypenny, Q. I thought I couldn't live without them. I didn't miss them. Don't know how I'd feel if they weren't present in later films.
But we'll just have to see, won't we?
Update: Casino Royale is part of a recent wave of films which I've really appreciated: The "take an old movie series and start over." Others in the genre are Batman Begins and Superman Returns (not really an origin story, but an attempt to kick-start the series). Batman Begins was every bit as good as this film. Superman Returns was a failure, but it was better than any of the other godawful Superman films. I hear that more in this genre are coming. I can't wait.