After 46 years, 22 official films and six actors, the James Bond film franchise still keeps an audience, primarily in the latest release, "Quantum of Solace."
Britain's most renowned and reckless secret agent (Daniel Craig) has a score to settle.
Following the death of his lover, Vesper Lynd, he is intent to find the people responsible. An interrogation in Italy turns ugly, and Bond's destructive pursuit of the mysterious Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) leaves his superior, M (Judi Dench), wondering if her best man can be trusted not to take his job too personally.
Regardless, 007 tracks his sources to the Caribbean, where he meets the beautiful and equally vengeful Camille (Olga Kurylenko). She is seeking out a South American army warlord (JoaquÃn Cosio) looking to sell out his countrymen, coincidentally enough, to Bond's quarry: fraudulent, malevolent businessman Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a supposed environmentalist who has other interests at hand.
Their alliance is almost immediate, but the ruthless and enigmatic forces against which they are fighting will put all their abilities to the test.
Craig returns for his second go-around as the ultimate spy. Tough, guiltless and determined, he keeps up his impressive character debut from "Casino Royale."
Kurylenko keeps up well, albeit with a less memorable name than other Bond females - Tiffany Case, Christmas Jones and Pussy Galore top the list - with a cliched back story to boot. More compelling in name and character is Bond's fellow agent, Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton), whom 007 woos, as well.
In her sixth film of the series, Dench keeps up her no-nonsense credibility as M, doubting the merits of her newly promoted man in the field.
Although lacking any intimidating features - scar on the eye, metal teeth, etc. - Amalric is an appropriately themed character as desperate, devious Greene.
And, of course, what Bond movie would be complete without a visit from American CIA contemporary, Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright)?
With the long history of the main character and all that the notoriety entails, the latest Bond escapade is no drop in quality, even after the superb revisionist work in "Casino Royale." From the opening titles - complete with the Jack White/Alicia Keys duet, "Another Way to Die" - there is no end to the visual feast of international intrigue and charismatic characters.
The complaint is that there is not enough time to showcase all of it.
The shortest 007 movie yet edits severely to refrain from over-length, but in the end, director Marc Forster and screenwriting team Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade leave out plot points altogether. Inferences can be made while watching, but not everyone will appreciate the thinning of the story line.
Bond creator and author Ian Fleming did not craft his adventures so obliquely, and the fact that the movie has nothing to do with the story upon which it is based is quite evident despite being veiled by lightning-fast action sequences and the driving theme of revenge.
"Quantum of Solace" is by no means the worst Bond film, but in trying to modernize everything, the filmmakers have lost some of the aloofness of their hero.
Combined with the weakened structure, there is little solace for fans of the classic, full-bodied story, who remain shaken up and not stirred toward applause.