Good, But Ultimately Lacklustre
What can I say? Underwhelming comes to mind. There are many things to like about Casino Royale, but ultimately it falls flat.
So what's good? Daniel Craig actually does make a satisfactory Bond. Certainly an improvement over the generic Brosnan. Craig makes the role his own, as did Connery, Moore, and Dalton. Thankfully, the action scenes are stunt based, rather than CGI. Casino Royale's Bond is far more realistic, less tongue-in-cheek than he has been in a long time, and it helps the atmosphere no end. The gadgets are restricted to a minimum, and for once, we genuinely feel there is some emotional investment in Bond's romance.
Where Casino Royale stumbles, is in the plot department. It's all over the place. There's no consistency, and it goes nowhere. While I'm glad they tried to be different, there's something to be said for having a central plot and antagonist to defeat. The closest we get to a villain in this film is Le Chiffre, who himself is merely trying to stave off further villains. On top of that, it's not even Bond who gets him in the end. As for the multitude of others, well, they're killed off as soon as they're introduced, with the exception of 'Mr White' who was practically superfluous anyway. It feels like Bond is chasing a trail of breadcrumbs, that never really lead anywhere.
As a result, the action scenes fail as well. They are well executed, but we the viewer, have nothing invested in them. Do we want to see Bond defeat this Villain? Well, we don't know them, so we don't care. Is there anything at stake in this action scene? Well, not really, so we don't care (With the possible exception of the Airport scene, where Bond at least had a disaster to stop). The final action scene would have been great, IF we'd even vaguely known who these villains were, or why they were doing what they were doing. Considering this lack of investment for the viewer, in the action scenes, they feel ridiculously long. How many jumps does Bond REALLY need to do at the beginning, or the man he's chasing, to know that, yes, they're both good at this? How many times does Bond need to chase, lose, and catch up with the bomber at the airport? And considering the many reviews and comments stating how violent and brutal Casino Royale was, I found myself wondering what they were talking about. This is no more violent than the average Bond really, except with less comedy, and a more serious tone, it's marginally more effective. If you want violent and brutal, the average Arnie flick will still out-do this any day of the week without even breaking a sweat.
Ultimately, when the film concludes, it feels as though we are still waiting for the final act, while the preceding acts haven't really lead to anything anyway. Casino Royale is disappointing not because it is especially bad, but because of all the potential it showed, and barely scratched the surface of. Saying that, it's still considerably better than the last couple of Brosnan's.