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LONDON (Reuters) - A grim-faced 007 is on the warpath in the latest James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace," the sequel to box office hit "Casino Royale" starring Daniel Craig as the world's most famous fictional spy.
Bond shows no mercy as he crosses Europe and South America to discover why the woman he loved betrayed him before she died.
He also battles evil eco-terrorist Dominic Greene who wants to install an exiled general in what is supposed to be Bolivia in exchange for land containing huge natural resources.
In a complex web of diplomacy and deceit, the secret agent falls foul both of his enemy and British and U.S. intelligence.
While early reviews generally preferred the previous movie, most agreed that 40-year-old Craig, in his second outing as Bond, has cemented his place in the coveted role which brings instant fame and fortune to the actor who plays it.
German-Swiss director Marc Forster admitted to feeling the pressure with his biggest movie to date.
"The challenge (is) there's a huge amount of expectations, and to rise up to that and have this pressure on hand and being watched by the media and the fans constantly," he told Reuters in Los Angeles.
"I thought it was interesting that Orson Welles responded to what his biggest regret in life was: never making a mainstream movie," Forster added.
"It made me think, it's fascinating that I actually would make a movie that more people would see than all the six movies I've done until now."
Forster is best known for directing Afghan-themed "The Kite Runner" and "Finding Neverland," about Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie starring Johnny Depp.
"Quantum of Solace", the action-packed 22nd installment in the Bond franchise, has some way to go to beat its predecessor.
"Casino Royale" was one of the most successful Bond films, earning $594 million in global ticket sales, according to tracking site www.boxofficemojo.com.
It was also lauded for revitalizing a series that had become stale, with credit going to Craig, dubbed the first blond Bond, for making 007 grittier than earlier incarnations.
Jack Warner, who covers the box office for Screen International, said Sony Corp's Columbia Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios will aim to exceed the "Casino Royale" tally this time around.
"They have a very strong brand to build on," he said.
"No one expects a sequel to do less well than the one before it. 'Casino Royale' was popular critically and with audiences, and they will be looking to break that."
Critics agreed that "Quantum of Solace" was no match for "Casino Royale", although first reviews were mostly positive.
James Christopher of the Times gave it four stars out of five, but The Sunday Times weekly was less generous, with Richard Brooks calling the film a "license to bore."
Craig disagreed with the description of the film as a revenge story.
"The idea of vengeance is the furthest thing from his mind," he told Reuters. "He just wants to get a closure."
"Quantum of Solace" has its royal world premiere in London on October 29, opens in British theatres on October 31 and in the United States on November 14.
(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles)
Editing by Paul Casciato