I'm not going over the story's outline, here. Since I've seen too damn many movies in all sorts of genres, I can usually tell what plot twist is coming, and I want to give nothing away. Especially since this one surprised me a couple of times...and I lay the pleasure I had in that experience to the script and director. Once or twice, Sam Mendes dropped the ball in his direction -- like the entrance to the gambling casino in Macao (which may have been the producers' and editor's fault more than his) -- but more often he added a lot more to the typical Bond action sequences. And Judy Dench even gets to show she knows how to fight in ways other than political.
Javier Bardem bugged me, at first, but as the film went on I could understand why he was playing the villain like he was; his joy comes from messing with his enemies. And I didn't know Ralph Fiennes was in this. Fact is, a LOT of the casting was spot on...except for Bérénice Marlohe, who had all the subtlety of a silent film actress but was really pretty.
BTW, Barnes and Noble's is having a Criterion disk sale. Film phreaks know what that means -- and if you don't, check it out. I'd sold my copies of "Beauty and the Beast" and "Orpheus", by Cocteau, so am getting them back. I also bought Louis Malle's "Lacomb, Lucien" and "Le Beau Serge", by Claude Chabrol. I thought about also buying "Les Cousins" by Chabrol, but I'm already going to have trouble paying for these so had to put it off.