I went to a benefit premiere of Casino Royale tonight. I've not really into the whole swank philanthropy scene, but I've always wanted to go to a Bond premiere, so I finally did it. I'll spare you the details of Aston Martins, gold-painted women, 007 ice sculptures, etc., and just get to the point.
Casino Royale is raw. I had heard that word being thrown around on the interweb as a description for this movie, and it's absolutely spot on. The feel is visceral and hard-hitting with much more suspense and shots that make you jump. This is a very different Bond than we've seen before. He's more arrogant than confident, he never hesitates, and he's sloppier.
The dialog is clever as ever, the story is deeper than usual (if somewhat convoluted), it's more emotional, and the chemistry between Bond and Vesper is excellent.
Acting is very good for the most part; some of the supporting characters are weak, but all the principals do a great job. And Daniel Craig is Bond.
The new theme song, "You Know My Name" by Chris Cornell isn't very exciting, but it may grow on me if I can track down a copy of the soundtrack [edit: it's not on the soundtrack]. I'll also need the CD to get a better feel for David Arnold's score, but he uses the Bond cues rather gingerly as the movie goes through the transformation of James Bond into 007.
Anyone expecting Bond traditions may be in for a bit of a surprise as Money Penny, Q, Charlie Robinson, and most shocking of all, the classic spotlight to gun barrel intro, have all been scrapped. I'm particularly irked by that last point, and I sincerely hope they bring it back in 2008's as yet untitled Bond 22. Retained traditions include the elaborate main titles, M, Felix Leiter, and the usual dizzying array of product placements.
Bottom line: Casino Royale is a good, very good. It feels distinctly different from past Bond movies, and I wish more traditions were retained, but there's something seductive in this film's edge, and I will almost certainly see it in theaters again once its official run begins.