Let me first state that this is unequivocally the best Bond film ever. It was also for quite some time the most concerning Bond film. Daniel Craig was a different kind of Bond, and I don't mean that because he's got blonde hair. He's not the suave Bond that I was used to seeing, but instead rough around the edges and not very suave at all. When this came out, I was expecting a train wreck. Die Another Day was not even the best Bond story of 2004 (that honor would belong to Everything or Nothing, a video game), and the change in pace seemed ill-advised.
At the same time, it worked as no Bond film since the Sean Connory era has. Bond wasn't cheeky like the Roger Moore era Bond, he wasn't as cool under pressure as Pierce Brosnan, but he is definitely Bond. It started with a bang (and one of the best Bond film songs I can remember - most of them are terrible) and 007's first kills. It then goes through some incredible set pieces and a great story. Sure, things are somewhat slow during the poker game at the titular hotel in Montenegro, but I never really noticed it. They added a few things here and a few there to spice it up instead of just having them play cards the whole film and it worked wonderfully.
As much as it seems like it isn't possible, they updated Bond for the 21st Century. They made him relevant again when the end of the Cold War and the ever increasing FX budget that made Q's inventions crazier and crazier to the point where Bond's car actually disappeared. Instead of taking it up a notch again, they took it down a notch and gave us a stripped down Bond that's been missing since From Russia With Love. With the gadgets out of the way, they were able to focus on the first real relationship I've ever seen Bond have with someone. Vesper Lynd was the perfect Bond Girl for this film - she wasn't over the top gorgeous or seductive. Instead, she was a real person with real emotions.
There were several things that made this the best Bond ever. There was the focus on the basics, the great story, strong performances, and perfect scenes. The two that stick out are when Bond is tortured and when he catches up with Mr White at Lake Como. It's scenes like this that make the movie so much more than it otherwise would be. It's not only a great Bond movie, it's a great movie (#18 to be precise).