Under the shadow of the Bourne films James Bond returned to the screen with a bang in 2006's Casino Royale.  Once Pierce Brosnan's run as Bond descended into silliness it was the right time to try things grittier once again, and audiences lapped it up.  Two years later Quantum of Solace kind of let the side down a little, Marc Forster tried to energise the often bloated Bond formula, but lacked a narrative to really do justice to his frenetic pacing.  Things got stalled even more when MGM wound up in all sorts of financial trouble, so its taken a little longer for Bond to get back onto the screen.

This hiatus has also given the filmmakers a chance to move on from the now oft-imitated Bourne formula and instead give Christopher Nolan's Batman a run for his money.  This film does feel like an odd, and perhaps unintentional, mash-up of all three Nolan Batman films, and there are certain visual and narrative echoes of them throughout.

Daniel Craig's Bond finds himself killed in action and takes a break from MI6, but he's prompted back into action when a cyber-terrorist begins threatening M (Judi Dench) after getting his hands on a list of deep cover agents.

It's bare bones plot-wise and the film spends, for a Bond film, a surprising amount of time on British soil.  Here Bond finds himself having to be re-evaluated for his position, with M under scrutiny from Ralph Fiennes' slate faced Mallory.  These scenes are some of the film's strongest, showing a frail side to 007 rarely addressed in previous Bonds (The World Is Not Enough did have a similar injury plaguing Bond throughout the picture).

Once Bond gets back out into the field the film has a strangely detached tone, with Roger Deakins' marvelous cinematography giving things an often surreal visual sheen.  This is also a Bond that is light on action set-pieces in the fashion Bond fans may be accustomed to, boldly preferring a more subdued tension and the stakes here are primarily personal rather than world threatening.

Whilst these are gutsy choices the film lacks any real sense of menace, despite Javier Bardem giving a rather delicious performance as Silva.  However for a film pushing past two hours we only really skim the surface of the personal conflicts and contrasts, many developments are rather blandly signposted and foreshadowed and its with a sense of inevitability rather than excitement when the marks are hit in a workmanlike fashion.  Meanwhile, unlike say Jason Bourne, the film's desire to get under Bond's skin psychologically is doomed to fail even before it begins, with nothing really resonating and the earlier sequences that explore Bond's "death" the most fascinating character-wise.

Unfortunately, for all its interesting choices under the direction of Sam Mendes, the film is disappointingly devoid of any thrills either action-wise or dramatically.  Some sequences tease towards something interesting, but they are, for various reasons, deflated and squandered.

To give this some context though, I was rather underwhelmed by both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, so if you're a fan of either of those then there's a strong chance you'll find much to enjoy here.