The film starts as James Bond (Daniel Craig) is on a mission to stop a bad guy from getting a computer chip that lists all the names of all the undercover NATO operatives. But during the scuffle, it seems like Bond is going to lose. Another agent, Eve (Naomie Harris), is aimed, but does not have a clear shot. M (Judi Dench) orders her to take it, and Bond is hit instead of the bad guy, who gets away. But Bond survives only to come back weeks later to a disheveled MI6 after he was declared dead and the MI6 headquarters are blown up. M and Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) rehire Bond, despite the fact he might not be ready or able to return, to figure out who is behind all of this. And that leads Bond to a man named Silva (Javier Bardem), who might just have a closer connection to M and MI6 than they first realized.
First off, I have to start with the biggest positive: the action. The action in Bond movies is what they apparently always have going for them, believable or otherwise. Here, everything was grounded at least somewhat in reality, but was still over-the-top fun. This can be anything from gunfire to explosions to chase scenes (with and without wheels). The pace in this film is so tight and fast that it barely feels like it's longer than 2 hours. I can't really say much more about it than that--and why should I need to? (Though I do love how the third act turns into Home Alone: 007.)
The film also seemed to act as a kind of origin story, oddly enough, introducing characters that I believe long-time fans would really enjoy seeing. Now, I'm not one of those people, but I was aware of certain names and whatnot to where I gathered the importance of the introductions and was able to appreciate what it was doing, even if it didn't make me a giddy fanboy like it would with others.
Acting-wise, everybody did very well. Judi Dench is always fantastic, and I find Daniel Craig to be good for this style of Bond. The standouts to me, though, were Ben Whishaw as Q, who was nerdy fun; Naomie Harris, who was charismatic and absolutely gorgeous; and Javier Bardem, who was such a fantastic villain. To me, a film is only as strong as its villain. You can have a great main character, but if you don't have an equal or better villain to give that main character a strong conflict, you have nothing. It's the difference between Goldfinger and "Oh, just another Russian maniac who wants to blow up the world." And Bardem plays a guy who is always one step ahead and you know he's insane, and he plays him with just a little bit of flamboyance, but not to where it's distracting. (There was an elderly sounding couple who, at the climax of the film, said aloud "Academy Award winner!" in regards to Bardem. Now, I'm not sure if they said it in reference to this performance or in a more ironic manner... but either way, it was a compliment to his entertaining performance, I feel.)
The story didn't feel like a typical Bond film, at least from what I gather about them. This one seemed more personal, almost like last year's Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It wasn't about someone who wanted power or world dominance. It wasn't all elegance and Bond Girls. It was about revenge and redemption, and it was gritty and hard-hitting. And I found the chemistry between Craig and Harris much more fun and believable than Bond would have with any typical Bond Girl. (And I wish Harris would have actually been in it more.)
So while I've heard debates on whether this was the Bond film since the Connery era or total shite, I feel this is quite easily the best Bond film I've seen (just keep in mind how many I've seen). It was fun, exciting, fast-paced, and had a really good story to pull it all together. I really recommend it if you were on the fence or hadn't gotten around to it yet. Even if you're not a Bond fanatic, there's definitely something to like here.
Royale With Cheese