It broke my thirteen-year-old heart to see James Bond playing Texas hold 'em. I could almost accept it in Casino Royale's Bahamian scenes, but attiring Bond in a tuxedo and sending him to an old-world casino while the dealer intones in an elegant continental accent about "the big blind" was a damn waste. Why not have Bond drink Coors Light and drive a Ford truck and scream "I'm James Bond, bitch!" while you're at it? Put the man in a game that reminds me of Sean Connery, not Dave Foley.
I realize the producers chose Texas hold 'em because everybody already knows the rules and can follow the game (and I suppose the game's televised popularity stems from the fact that it's so easy to follow, with most of the cards visible on the table and a betting system that lends itself to cheap theatrics--did any hand in Casino Royale not end with somebody going all in?). But if you're going to choose the game because you don't need to explain it, you don't then need to have the characters standing around telling each other what a "tell" is, especially as Bond gets taken in by an obvious feint. Besides, the Bond franchise is supposed to lead the curve, not follow it: maybe Casino Royale could have started a nationwide baccarat craze. No, probably not, but it would have been fun watching your old college buddies and that slightly obnoxious guy from work buy those little paddles and the shoe.
Other than the choice of game, the biggest disappointment was the theme song by Chris Cornell (hopefully on his last stop before "I ♥ the 90s" color commentary), all feigned emotion and canned soul. It would be hard to think of a less Bond-like singer who doesn't perform with a headset mike and a cowboy hat; another wasted opportunity, especially since the opening titles finally outgrew the naked-chicks-dancing-in-front-of-a-gun motif. Otherwise the music was as great as it's always been since David Arnold came on board the franchise--he knows exactly when to play it cool and modern, when to introduce a loud John Barry flourish.
My gripes aside, the movie is a highly successful reinvigoration of the Bond franchise (although, as a Brosnan fan, I didn't think it needed much reinvigoration--just redirection, which Casino Royale supplies). The film is unusually front-loaded on the action (I don't think I was able to exhale once during the Le Parkour chase scene) but I didn't mind the shift to intrigue and betrayal. Daniel Craig handles himself well, presenting two very different faces of Bond: the stoic, all but sociopathic killer of the Fleming novels and the first couple of movies, and a more humane person who surfaces only briefly before he is submerged again (literally). The movie has too many false endings, although that's largely due to the imperfectly climactic source material. This is the most complete and faithful adaptation of a Fleming novel in a long time, a sound strategy for bringing James Bond back to basics.
Of course, James Bond is always going back to basics. The critics praised Timothy Dalton for playing a grittier, meaner Bond after the bloated Roger Moore years, and that only led to a couple of movies where he fought the Nancy Reagan-approved scourge of drug dealers--and Wayne Newton. Pierce Brosnan started out with the cynical Goldeneye (directed by Casino Royale's Martin Campbell, apparently the franchise's go-to guy for realistic reinventions) and three movies later he was fighting villains who wore powered armor. We'll see how long Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson can resist the temptation to include unkillable henchmen and submarine cars.
That said, I know Le Chiffre originally worked for SMERSH but I'll be disappointed yet again if the mysterious organization turns out to be anyone other than SPECTRE. (Preferably a newer, quieter, more sinister SPECTRE but SPECTRE just the same, white cat and all.) There are basics and then there are essentials.