Retrospectively when you look back over the Broz era - starts on a high, plummets to a low - you can see there's a theme of flashy gadgets, gleaming hair, and cheesy one-liners. He's good... but only compared to the last guy. GoldenEye was a kickstart for the 90s, but ten years on and the series already needs another kickstart already? Broz had become the new Roger Moore before our very eyes, contracted from his initial and only Bondian success through a talent-free meatgrinder of forgettable sequels like TND, TWINE and then ice-surfing DaD. Oh the horror, and I suppose, oh the waste.
Late 2006, enter the Blonde Bond and Casino Royale.
They say raw, they say back to the books (yawn), they say gritty (sigh). And, well, like many Brits I've seen the film on opening weekend in a packed Kino and you know what - they're right. You wouldn't fucking believe it, but this is a Bond film with a down-to-earth plot, strong characters, and edge-of-your-seat fights where Bond is being punched... and punched again... and golly, he's bleeding and cut and he's in a bit of a state. C'mon James, you can do it lad.
Unguiltily washing away ten years of Broz, Casino Royale fixes the broken Bond legacy. A line has been drawn under the 90s, and then also the 80s, and most of the 70s too. The whole premise of the film is that it pretends that the shit stuff never happened. You the viewer are not constantly drawing comparisons to the last film. Or the Scottish guy. Or the last car. Or even Halle Berry, or whatever floats your boat. This makes concrete the new film almost as a stand-alone, almost as if... it might be the first Bond ever made.
This is more than about finding a good actor for the lead character, and Daniel Craig appears to be a pretty damn determined, talented, craggy-looking actor who gives Bond a real edge, a ruthlessness and also an independence that he has been sorely lacking. Blonde Bond spends the movie figuring things out. Following people. Reporting to M, and scrapping with dangerous people. Sure, there's an Aston and there's a PPK, but they're second fiddle to Bond and absolutely not the other way around. The whole movie is woven with plot, pace, and character development that is on a par with a 'normal film at the cinema'. It is in so many ways not a Bond film.
It is not a perfect film by any means. You will mostly cringe at the product placement (too numerous to list, but for your post-movie agreement: £15m GBP buys the Ford Motor Company a 20 second advertlet; buy a Sony Vaio because it is endorsed by James Bond; Omega eye-rollingly gets namedropped over its famous competitor; oh and drink Smirnoff and Heineken, which spookily you may notice only subconsciously from prominent placement). It is slightly too long, but I wouldn't cut the important poker game, personally I'd look at a trim from all three reels of the movie, including the blood-pumping freejumping chase and also the airport shennanigans that you'll have seen in the trailer. Some might also say that Bond doesn't actually have much script, but that's because he's too busy punching people and making them bleed.
It is a little ironic to compare this film to its predecessors, when it is deliberately washing away so much that has come before it. I felt sorry for Brosnan after watching this because there's this realisation of oh my God I've been hoodwinked because I don't remember any of Brosnan's efforts at all, the poor man.
Casino Royale is emotional, dramatic and violent, and this makes it stronger and better than GoldenEye. Is it better than Dr.No? I think that question might depend on how you like your Bond girls.