A big deal is being made of the fact that the new Bond, Daniel Craig, is young and, gasp-shudder, Blonde! Within seconds of Casino Royale starting you realize that none of this matters. Craig has the presence to pull off Bond like nobody since Connery. Each Bond has tried to be more charming, more gentlemanly than their pedecessor. Craig instead is presented as a strong, silent and really pretty scary son of a bitch. That's not to say he isn't charismatic, but it's an intimidating kind of charisma.
Craig is supported by a fantastic script. Casino Royale is based on the first of the Bond books and is an origins story of sort. As the series has made our hero less of a misogynist in each film, keeping up with the sensibilities of the times, casino has the opportunity to offer an explanation, some might even say an excuse for Bond's detached attitude toward women. The other strength in the script is how natural the stunts and action scenes feel, including a chase scene opener that is mindblowing. Not once do you get the feeling of Bond wandering into an obstacle course and predictably going through each amazing stunt, instead you find him logically making his way across high rise construction sites, through a collapsing building and down a fire escape.
Judy Dench is of course perfect as M. She is tough and funny and strangely maternal towards 007, even as she is threatening to have him killed.
As always there are "The Bond Girls" this time played by Caterina Murino and Eva Green. Both actresses are just that, actresses. Sure, they have their obligatory scenes looking amazing in evening dresses, and oh my gosh do they look amazing, but they also have well developed characters, good lines and a chance to be more than a pretty face.
I have only two small critiques. When Bond wins at poker he wins with the best hand. That's not nearly as exciting as when a cool bastard manages to win with a bluff, especially since Bond explains earlier in the film that the man with the best hand doesn't always win. My other complaint involves the face paint on the ladies. The make up artist for this film had one too many espressos or something and really went to town; too much.
All in all this is my favorite Bond in a long time, in fact I'm going to even say it's up there with the best Bonds ever. From the adrenaline rush action to the compelling romantic tale to the didn't quite see it coming ending.