(CNN) -- "Quantum of Solace," Daniel Craig's second outing as James Bond, begins just minutes after "Casino Royale" ended and sets off at such a furious pace -- a breakneck car chase along hairpin roads -- you half expect 007 to overtake himself and save his lover Vesper Lynd from the soggy Venetian fate that ended "Royale."
Daniel Craig is back as James Bond in "Quantum of Solace."
But whatever's driving him -- revenge, as his boss M (Judi Dench) suspects, or duty, as he insists -- this Bond is looking forward, not back.
There's no time to stop and think as the oleaginous Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) slips through his fingers once again and Bond is dispatched to Haiti, where he's mistaken for an assassin or set up for a hit -- or possibly both. It's hard to say in the fusillade of rapid-fire editing.
It's here he meets Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a Bolivian beauty with a burn mark on her back and a bone to pick with the man who put it there, and Mr. White's friend Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric, making the most of not very much), an apparently philanthropic businessman busily carving up South America for "eco-parks" with the tacit approval of the U.S. government. (Intriguingly, the new-look Bond seems to be developing a skeptical political outlook that would come as a shock to Ian Fleming.) Watch Craig talk about the challenges of being Mr. Bond »
Versatile if nothing else, "Finding Neverland" director Marc Forster keeps the action in high gear and the funny business to a minimum -- a quantum of wit, you might say. Daniel Craig's Bond isn't one to crack a smile when he could be cracking heads. Roger Moore recently complained that his Bond was a lover, but Craig's is a killer; there's some truth in that, though Moore's "lover" could better be described as "womanizer." iReport.com: What did you think of "Quantum of Solace?"
Moore's right, though. In "Quantum of Solace," Bond beds only Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), who comes to the proverbial sticky end in a rather slick nod to "Goldfinger," but his body count approaches double figures.
Craig does show flashes of compassion, when he's cradling a bullet-ridden Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) in his arms -- prior to dumping his corpse in the trash -- or when he's advising Camille on how to compensate for the adrenaline rush when she gets her shot at the evil despot who murdered her mom.
The harder edge makes sense in the circumstances, but the producers might want to be leery of going too much further down this road; Moore isn't the only one who misses the old Bond's lighter touch, his urbane savoir faire and way with a quip. These are the qualities that have defined him for nearly half a century.
The highpoint of the new film is a set piece at a performance of "Tosca" at an Austrian opera house, an oddly discreet meeting place for Greene's shadowy consortium of businessmen and politicians, which Bond cleverly breaks up. It's the one time where he shows brains as well as brawn, and three minutes of Puccini makes for welcome relief from David Arnold's solid but over-stretched score.
The low point is a lengthy chase with the superspy stuck behind the joystick of an lugubrious old prop plane under fire from a fighter jet, a sequence we've seen countless times before, and to which Forster brings absolutely nothing new. The following scene in a desert sinkhole, obviously shot in a studio, is also pretty cheesy.
If Kurylenko is more than adequate in the Bond girl stakes, the moviemakers evidently mean to make Bond's relationship with M the emotional linchpin of the series, and Dame Judi and Craig have a lovely rapport. She's the only one who brings the sweetness out of him. Too bad there's never time to savor it. A little less haste might not be a bad thing.
"Quantum of Solace" is efficient and effective, but it's too businesslike to generate any real warmth.
"Quantum of Solace" is rated PG-13 and runs 105 minutes. For Entertainment Weekly's take, click here.
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