With the credits done, the story bursts into a shocking new direction and we are hurled into the mixture of suspense, thrills, and international complexity that are the hallmarks of the franchise. Nobody can be trusted; not even established characters. We even doubt Bond's loyalties and motives while remaining confident that he will win through. For all that this is a reengineering of the traditions of the past forty years, there are a host of acknowledgements of past features and reprise is apparent at even the most trivial level.
The film is not without some glaring flaws: if Fields (Gemma Aterton) is just an office filing clerk, why does she appear to be wearing nothing under her short mac when she goes to put Bond back on his plane? How does an office filing clerk afford such an expensive dinner gown when she accompanies Bond to the villain's party? Despite this, her purpose in the film becomes apparent when she personifies the oil theme by dying in a coat of crude oil that echoes Jill Masterton's death in Goldfinger. I wonder if Aterton had her stomach left unpainted too.
For me, the most uncomfortable aspect of the film was the clownish CIA South American Head of Section, Gregg Beam. Would any US espionage agency recruit such an appalling nitwit? And having got him, would he really be better than enough other agents to be promoted to this level. His idiocy seemed not to be some comic foil; I really do not understand the basis for his character.
On the whole, however, I enjoyed this hard-edged Bond. His maudlin boozing in Virgin Upper Class did little to soften his brutality but he was not uncaring. This really is a new character that is close to my original imaginings. Short, sharp, fierce, and funny; roll on episode 23.