Easily one of the best films of the year, Casino Royale was the stunning reinvention of the flagging Bond franchise. Personally, I think it came at just the right time. Bond was a dead concept, bereft of any purpose or enjoyability in its previous incarnation as an implausible and braindead action series. Schwarzenegger movies had nothing on the rank stupidity of the continuingly more unreasonable Bond scripts.
Casino Royale easily outdoes every other Bond movie before, making the series what it was meant to be: intense, dark, and brooding espionage with a hero who rides the fine line of even being likable.
This the Bond for me: a brutish thug with even less conscience than suaveness (which is non-existant, Bond being more interested in completing his missions through brute force than playing kissyface with whores and lounging around in tuxes).
The movie is a beautiful piece of work and shows a visual style not seen in years. Daniel Craig and Eva Green could not be better as Bond and his love interest Vesper Lynd in the story of Bond's first case. Craig himself is the ultimate Bond, acting entirely with a glower and a shimmer of angry ice-blue eyes, movements full of purposes and words so sparse as to make him seem robotic... Many might see that as a negative aspect, but it is the perfect iteration of Bond, as Flemming intended when he referred to him as a "blunt instrument". Never has Bond been more blunt.
One must particularly point out the few action moments from the film, most prominent in the more typically Bond-like opening scenes of a foot-chase in Africa, traversing across a construction site, that is the best chase ever featured in a movie, easily overshadowing the airport chase later in the movie by being so fucking impressive that it still stands out in your mind days after seeing the movie. And, strangely enough, the action sequences actually tie into Bond's character and exhibit important aspects of his personality and thought processes instead of just being an excuse to blow shit up and use gadgets (of which there are none in this more realistic movie).
The plot itself is enjoyable, though varied in quality throughout and slight in parts, but never has a Bond film felt so right while being so scattered. Many plebes will wonder at what exactly is going on in the tale of gambling in the stock market with blood money and the subsequent move to extort the banker for the world's terrorists and dictators into revealing his employers, a plot point revolving around a high-stakes card game. Many more will complain about the movie slowing down toward the end, lost in its romantic plot and ending on a dark note, though I can't imagine anything more satisfying than seeing Bond being broken and learning all the lessons that make him, as you can see in the final seconds of the movie as his theme music finally rears its head, into the hard, cold Bond that we'll be seeing from now on.
Not a film to be missed, under any circumstances.