Daniel Craig makes a good Bond. There. I’ve said it. An actor, known for his acting, who beefed up considerably for the role (although he had previous action hero status when he did his shower scene in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and able to bring subtle nuance to the role of a newly instated double-0 agent who is not the superhero previously seen in the Bond films and who has some emotions that he tries to hide for the sake of the job.
Casino Royale is a return to the original idea of Bond, as it adapts the first novel by Ian Fleming. This is a good way to reinvigorate a series (cf. Batman Begins), and also allow for the infusion of the current vogue for the secret agent, as typified by the excellent Bourne movies with Matt Damon. Craig is a Bond who is still learning (his first kill, flashbacked in the opening scene, showing his amateurism on the job, is quite startling and effective) but his single-minded and determined to do his job to the best of his abilities and without the need for an excess of gadgets to compensate for a lack of initiative.
Martin Campbell knows how to direct the action, having returned Bond to the fore with Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, and the action scenes bristle with energy and pace (the parkour chase is particularly effective) when they arrive. Because this Bond has more time to talk to people in actual conversations, instead of just quipping, and having a poker tournament as the centre of the third act doesn’t exactly make for stimulating blockbuster material, so the set pieces have to carry a lot of spectacle.
The film isn’t perfect – it is too long and the ending after the ending takes even longer to arrive, even though it is obvious that there is another ending coming (which has certain character choices that are so illogical that they have to be explained by M in the epilogue). The poker game as the centre of suspense seems a little forced at times, and the Le Chiffre (banker to terrorist organisations) character isn’t quite satisfying enough as a Bond opponent (why does his eye bleed? Is it because it says so in the book?). And, of course, it has a Richard Branson cameo, which is always a black mark against any film.
However, as an action espionage film, it has to be considered a success, with Craig rightly nominated for a best actor award at the BAFTAS (and winning the Empire Best Actor award) as the perfect modern Bond, blonde or not. Enjoyable to those, like myself, who are not great Bond fans and a boost for the Bond franchise.