There are very few certain things in this world. One of them is this: James Bond is awesome. Part caricature of male power fantasies and part... well, okay, that sums up James Bond pretty completely.
But while clichéd, outdated chauvinism and manlier-than-thou bullshit doesn't quite work anymore for anyone else (witness Arnold Schwarzenegger's gradual neutering, or the flailing, desperate attempts by The Rock to revive the über-male hero template), it has always worked, and will likely continue to work, for James Bond. Casino Royale might be the whopping 21st Bond flick, but it's also, unexpectedly, one of the best. Rebooting Bond, the film updates and tweaks, but it nails the one thing that's important: what a badass James Bond is.
So the good news is that Casino Royale gets Bond right; the better news is that nearly the whole film feels equally fresh and cool. That's all thanks to the very un-Bondish Daniel Craig, who, as 007, is tough, funny, sophisticated, and clever. Gone is Timothy Dalton's clumsy posturing and Pierce Brosnan's oily smirk, having been replaced with a 007 who's genuinely intense, entertaining, and exciting. Focused on messy politics, stealthy spy moves, and unapologetic action, Casino Royale's main plot centers on a high-stakes poker game, but that's not to say there aren't sweet car crashes, an awesome parkour-inspired chase sequence, various gorgeous women, and more gunshots than one can count.
Things aren't all great here—director Martin Campbell, he of the Zorro films and another Bond film, GoldenEye—doesn't know when to quit, making the clunky third act of Casino Royale feel blandly stereotypical. But the film's climax wouldn't feel so overlong if it weren't for Campbell's film's striking black-and-white opening scene, or the film's surprisingly effective focus on character. And even through the end, the perfectly cast Craig makes Casino Royale a blast, a solid spy flick that's filled with wit and bombast in equal measure. It's been a long time since Bond was awesome. It's pretty rad to have him back.