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New release: <i>Quantum of Solace</i>

Quantum of Solace

Casino Royale, the 2006 revamp of the hallowed 007 film franchise, turned out to be the best Bond outing since Reagan’s first term in office, so expecting Quantum of Solace to surpass it was probably asking too much. And indeed, this second effort starring Daniel Craig as the newly minted agent with a licence (preferred Brit spelling intentional) to kill gets off to a rough start, simply because the two elements we can always rely on -- the opening credits and the theme song -- are particularly dreadful. The animated graphics are a real eyesore, while “Another Way to Die,” sung by Jack White and Alicia Keys, will doubtless lead to bleeding ears in Dolby-enhanced theaters across the globe. Fortunately, it isn’t long before we’re again immersed in the Bond mystique. Half gentleman, half bruiser, Craig’s Bond is still learning the ropes of his new status as a field operative, and it’s up to his superior, M (again played by Judi Dench with the right mix of exasperation at the monster she helped create and barely concealed pride at the confident, competent male she’s released to the world), to try -- usually with little success -- to keep him in line. In a first for the 46-year-old series, Quantum of Solace isn’t loosely connected to past pictures but is instead a direct sequel to its predecessor: To watch it without having seen Casino Royale would be akin to viewing The Empire Strikes Back without having seen Star Wars. The villainous organization in the previous picture is still full speed ahead, and revenge for the death of a loved one remains foremost on the mind of our hero. M is worried that this will cloud Bond’s judgment, but 007 is nothing if not effective at multitasking. And does he have his hands full, whether tangling with the dastardly Dominic Greene (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’s Mathieu Amalric), forming a partnership with the lovely Camille (Olga Kurylenko, certainly a letdown after Eva Green’s brainy, biting Vesper Lynd from Casino Royale), or seeking help from coolly distant allies Felix Leiter and Mathis (returning co-stars Jeffrey Wright and Giancarlo Giannini). With conservation on everyone’s mind, it’s a clever touch to make the chief baddie, Dominic “Greene,” the head of an organization that’s supposedly supporting a healthy environment but is instead a front for its creator’s own avarice.