I went to see the latest Bond film yesterday evening.
It was certainly a step up from Die Another Day. No more hilarious technologies and ridiculous characters. This is a pared-down Bond film, and is much darker and more realistic than some of its predecessors as a result. Whether this made it a good film, though... the jury's still out.
The poker scenes tested my patience. As well as being clumsily cut, such that I didn't really know if the action had moved forward or not, it had Bond's associate "narrating" the game in a most tedious manner. Fair enough, for a general audience it couldn't really have been done any differently, or it would have been too opaque; but it's a good reason not to have a card game at the centre of a major film. At least it wasn't Shithead. I was looking forward to some double, triple and even quadruple bluffing, too, but in the end I was treated only to one fairly half-hearted and predictable double bluff from Le Chiffre. Which brings me on to another thing...
The characters were not only believable in this film, they were more than a little bland. Le Chiffre made a poor villain, in my opinion. He was uninteresting, even with the "special quirk" ubiquitous to Bond villains, in this case the crying of blood. I read White Teeth by Zadie Smith only a couple of weeks ago, where this trait is also used for shock value, so it did nothing for me. Nor did his predilection for "interesting" torture, in the form of some excessive testicle-bashing, "do it" for me. OK, he's a bit of a sadist weirdo... just like all the other Bond villains. Le Chiffre compounds his uninterestingness by inconsiderately getting himself shot in the head about three-fifths of the way through the film, and after that the entire film seems completely aimless.
On the plus side, Daniel Craig makes an interesting Bond. I don't think he'll outshine the others (except Lazenby), but it really depends on what you're looking for in a Bond. He reminds me a bit of Timothy Dalton, but less gentlemanly and more physically believable... but that could just be because Bond shows emotions again in this film, something that Pierce Brosnan never really got the chance to do, with the exception of a bit of righteous anger here and there. Whether this is a good thing or not... I'm undecided.
There were also two wonderful action scenes at the start of the film, which managed to impress even me, jaded big-screen adrenaline junkie that I am. So not a loss of an evening, all told.