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Karen Ballard, United Artists
Daniel Craig plays James Bond, who's searching for the people responsible for his girlfriend's death, in "Quantum of Solace."

QUANTUM OF SOLACE — *** — Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric; rated PG-13 (violence, gore, torture, profanity, brief nudity, brief sex, drugs, vulgarity).

It might not be a bad idea for a few audiences to take a refresher course in "Casino Royale 101" before they try to take in "Quantum of Solace."

The new spy thriller is perhaps the first real sequel in James Bond movie history. It makes direct reference to the earlier movie, and those who aren't as versed in the characters and story elements may feel a bit lost. (It picks up the action within about an hour of the end of "Casino Royale.")

Also, like its predecessor, there's a real brutality and nastiness to much of its violence. "Quantum" almost nears R territory in terms of such content, though it's certainly not that far of a cry from the popular, similarly PG-13 rated "Bourne" films.

Of course, all that being said, the lean-and-mean film will appeal to those who have enjoyed the modern "re-envisioning" of Ian Fleming's suave British superspy so far.

Daniel Craig reprises his role as Bond, who's on the trail of the people responsible for the death of his girlfriend, Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, seen in flashbacks).

He denies that he's out for revenge, but 007 has become hardened and is killing any and all persons that stand in his way. In fact, his boss — M (Dame Judi Dench) — is thinking of pulling him out of the action.

That is, until she's nearly assassinated by agents from a mystery organization. The trail from that leads Bond to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a supposed philanthropist who is using ecological charities to disguise his terrorist activities.

The plotting is a bit convoluted, and it relies on your knowledge of the earlier film. Still, it doesn't really get in the way of the action, which is why people pay to see these movies in the first place.

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And speaking of which, there's a lot of action here. "Quantum of Solace" starts with a terrific car chase sequence that puts similar scenes to shame, leads to another thrilling foot chase (this time, it's over rooftops and ends on scaffolding) and even features an aircraft duel of sorts.

Also, all director Marc Forster really needs to do is get the camera to focus on Craig, who has already put his stamp on the character. While he may not have the charm of Sean Connery or the cheekiness of Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, his Bond is a convincing, blunt instrument of vengeance.

"Quantum of Solace" is rated PG-13 and features strong violent content and action (shootings and gunplay, fisticuffs, vehicular and explosive mayhem, and some violence against women, including sexual violence), gore and blood, scenes depicting torture and interrogation, scattered profanity, brief female nudity (in an opening-credits sequence), brief sex contact (overheard and implied), drug references, and other suggestive language and references. Running time: 106 minutes.

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