QUANTUM OF SOLACE (12A, 106 mins) Action/Thriller. Daniel Craig, Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Jeffrey Wright, Jesper Christensen, Joaquin Cosio. Director: Marc Forster.
Released: October 31 (UK & Ireland)
Agent 007 returns, all guns blazing, in the action-packed follow-up to Casino Royale, set in the immediate aftermath of the blockbusting 2006 film.
Quantum Of Solace opens with a spectacular car chase through the historic streets of Siena, Italy, culminating in a pursuit over the rooftops which recalls the breathtaking Morocco sequence from The Bourne Ultimatum.
It's no surprise that many of the behind-the-scenes crew have close ties to the Bourne franchise, including co-editor Richard Pearson, second unit director Dan Bradley and stunt co-ordinator Gary Powell.
At times, the similarities become more of an imitation, and unfortunately for Bond, his American counterpart does it far better.
Director Marc Forster ensures the pace doesn't slacken for the opening hour, including a fist-fight on a series of ropes and pulleys, a high-speed boat chase and an aerial dogfight.
Once audiences finally catch their breath, the ramshackle plot unfurls with no sense of urgency and all of the adrenaline pumping through the film's veins dissipates, building to a deeply-disappointing final showdown in Chile.
Perhaps for the first time ever, Bond's arch-nemesis dies off screen.
Quantum Of Solace is also the first film where the principal lovely doesn't disrobe and succumb to James' charms.
Amusingly, there is more sexual tension between M and her headstrong protege.
Bond is evidently losing his touch.
Following the death of Vesper Lynd, Bond (Craig) joins M (Dench) to interrogate Mr White (Christensen), part of a secret organisation responsible for his beloved's demise.
"The first thing you should know is that we have people everywhere," smirks Mr White, who has good reason to feel cocky.
The trail of evidence leads to beautiful Haiti, where Bond meets the enigmatic yet alluring Camille (Kurylenko), a woman pursing a secret vendetta against ruthless businessman Dominic Greene (Amalric) and his associate, exiled General Medrano (Cosio).
Greene and his allies plan to sweep Medrano back into power, overthrowing an entire Latin American regime, in exchange for a seemingly worthless piece of desert.
As the vengeful British agent edges closer to discovering the identities of the men responsible for Vesper's death, he takes justice into his own bloody hands, clashing with old friends Felix Leiter (Wright) and field agent Mathis (Giannini).
Quantum Of Solace pales next to its predecessor, lacking a compelling lead villain or coherent storyline.
Craig's lead performance, which was unconvincing in Casino Royale, is even more cold and aloof here, and virtually starved of emotion.
In one solitary scene, with Bond cradling a dying friend in his arms, there is a flicker of grief but we soon realise the tear rolling down his cheek is actually sweat, which quickly evaporates.
Kurylenko is a largely ineffectual sidekick and Gemma Arterton is superfluous to requirements as Agent Fields, whose ultimate fate is an obvious nod to Goldfinger.
Thankfully, Dench dominates her scenes, constantly berating her operative for his reckless actions.
"If you could avoid killing every possible lead it would be deeply appreciated," she quips.
Fans of the series will thrill to the action scenes, but the 21st-century 007 is in danger of severing all ties to his glorious past, losing the gadgets, double entendres and the charm - indeed, everything that made us fall in love with Bond back in 1962.