James Bond (Daniel Craig) arrives at an MI6 safe house in Istanbul to recover a laptop containing a list of NATO’s undercover agents in terrorist cells across the globe. When he enters the room he finds all the agents dead but Ronson who is critically wounded. Bond reports the laptop drive stolen to M (Judi Dench) and tries to stabilize Ronson by applying pressure to the wound. M orders him to recover the drive forcing Bond to leave Ronson to die.
Bond emerges from the apartment building to find rookie agent Eve (Naomi Harris) waiting in a jeep, having been following the assassin, Patrice (Ola Rapace), since he left the apartment. They pursue him through the Grand Bazaar. While she drives, Eve is uncertain of her maneuvers so Bond calmly reaches over and grips the steering wheel YANKING it to drive their jeep right into the side of Patrice’s car. The assassin’s car flips onto its side and skids right into a group of stalls in the Grand Bazaar. The police arrive as Patrice emerges with a modified automatic pistol making them easy targets. Taking a dead officer’s motorcycle, he flees the scene with Bond hot in pursuit on a bike of his own.
Patrice soon forces his motorcycle up several sets of stairs until he emerges on the rooftop of the Grand Bazaar. From London, M and Bill Tanner (Rory Kinnear) follow the situation so that they can guide Eve after Bond and Patrice. Bond forces Patrice off the rooftops, onto the street and towards an overpass where Eve is waiting with her jeep blocking his escape. Desperate, Patrice dives off the overpass and onto a passing train. Bond revs his bike and jumps after him, losing the bike but making it onto the train by the skin of his teeth.
As Patrice fires on Bond, his Walther PPK runs out of bullets forcing him into a backhoe loader. Using the machine’s heavy metallic shovel attachment, Bond successfully blocks most of the bullets Patrice fires except for a few which strike the metallic edge of the frame shattering the glass and embedding shrapnel in Bond’s chest. Knowing he can’t shoot Bond directly, Patrice fires at the coupling mechanism holding the car to the train. Bond drives the backhoe loader over a few parked cars in front of it and slams the shovel attachment down digging into Patrice’s carriage. Bond scales the machinery and jumps through the hole, stopping momentarily to adjust his cuff and continue the chase.
Eve follows the train on a stretch of road as far as it can go. When the train passes through a tunnel and emerges, she realizes that she is at the end of the line and can’t pursue any further. Bond and Patrice are now engaged in a brutal melee on the top of the train. Eve tells M that she might be able to get Patrice but that she doesn’t have a clean shot Bond is in the way. M orders her to take the shot. Bond hears this as Eve fires hitting Bond and sending him flying off the train and into a river far below. Eve is in shock that she missed and the train goes into another tunnel allowing Patrice to escape. Eve hollowly reports “agent down” and M stares out at the rain falling on the Thames.
M sits in her office at night and struggles to write an obituary for Bond. She doesn’t know what to say.
Three Months Later. M meets with Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), a member of the government which gives him direct oversight of MI6. He informs her that the Crown intends to bestow the highest award that can be bestowed in the service of the Queen and that it will coincide with her “voluntary” retirement in two months’ time. M refuses to leave MI6 in worse shape than she found it and tells Mallory as much. Mallory points out that losing the drive which contained a list that shouldn’t have existed in the first place was too big a mistake to allow.
M leaves Mallory’s office and gets into her personal car with Tanner. Tanner’s laptop PINGS someone is trying to access the drive. M orders him to trace its location and Tanner’s trace leads back to MI6 M’s computer. The car hits traffic and the police tell M that there’s nothing they can do right as the MI6 building EXPLODES. M watches in horror as the fireball settles.
Bond awakens after a passionate night of casual sex. He’s on an island and still recovering. The shrapnel in his shoulder hasn’t been removed causing him pain which forces him to down pills like candy. To support himself, he goes to bars at night and bets the crowd that he can drink tequila without getting stung by a scorpion on his hand. He collects his money and spends his night (and days) drinking. Pouring himself a scotch that morning, he sees a report that MI6 has been hit by a terrorist attack and realizes that he needs to go back.
M returns to her apartment one night in need of a drink. She hears a clink and sees Bond’s silhouette in the darkness. “007 reporting for duty,” he says casually. He tells her that she should try running away from it all sometime it was a perspective changer and chastises her for ordering Eve to take the shot. She tells him that if he had it so good on that island, he wouldn’t have come back. Bond prepares to go to his flat but M informs him that it was sold and his possessions placed in storage the standard matter for deceased agents with no next of kin.
MI6 has relocated its headquarters underground to a renovated set of bunkers which Winston Church used during World War II. Tanner fills Bond in on the situation while he takes his physical and psychological examinations. Bitter and broken, Bond is in worse shape than ever. Mallory sits in on the psychological exam and sees just how damaged Bond is something M does not openly admit. Bond runs into Eve, now acting as Mallory’s personal aide, and he absolves her of the incident but jokes that he feels much safer knowing that she’s behind a desk now.
Fed up with the shrapnel hurting his shoulder, he takes a knife and digs it all out. Giving the samples to Tanner, they trace the bullet fragments and are able to identify the assassin. Now armed with Patrice’s name, M sends Bond to go and find the new Quartermaster in order to go and hunt Patrice down. Tanner is surprised that Bond passed his exams. M informs him that Bond didn’t.
Bond arrives at a museum and finds Q (Ben Whishaw) admiring a painting. Initially unimpressed with the young man, Bond and Q exchange biting barbs until Q illustrates his intelligence. Q presents Bond with a ticket to Shanghai where Patrice is travelling under a known alias and a mission kit: a hand-coded Walther PPK which only Bond can fire and a small rescue beacon. Bond comments that it’s hardly Christmas and Q quips that Q's branch “doesn’t really do” exploding pens anymore.
SHANGHAI. Bond waits for Patrice in the airport when he lands and follows him from a distance. The assassin arrives at a large skyscraper and kills the guards, boarding an elevator for the top of the building. Bond bolts after him, climbing up and grabbing onto a bar on the bottom of the elevator. Almost slipping, Bond manages to hold on during the ascent and pry open a nearby elevator once he’s sure Patrice has left the elevator. He follows the man into a server room and watches Patrice assemble a rifle. Patrice carves out a hole in the glass and puts the muzzle through aiming into a building across the way where an elderly Chinese business man is meeting with the alluring Severine (Bérénice Lim Marlohe). Patrice fires, killing the business man, before jerking back to fire at Bond. Patrice misses and the rematch begins. Patrice’s gun blows away the rest of the window. The struggle ends with Bond throwing the assassin out the window to his death. He looks up to see Severine staring at him from across the gap between the buildings. Turning to Patrice’s kill kit, Bond finds a casino chip which would serve as Patrice’s payment for the assassination.
Bond checks into his hotel. As he prepares to shave, a knock at the door announces Eve’s arrival. Knowing she’s here to report to Mallory, Bond expresses disdain for the man but Eve tells Bond that Mallory was once an agent himself having been captured and tortured by the IRA in Belfast years before. But Bond knows this already. She shaves him with a straight razor and they flirt as he prepares for the evening.
In London, M receives another message from the cyber terrorist which directs her to a youtube channel which lists 5 agents’ names, photos, and which terrorist cell they are embedded with. As BBC World News broadcasts footage of the third agent being publicly executed, M realizes that whoever it is has a connection to her time in Shanghai and that they must have a connection with MI6.
Arriving at the gambling den by boat, Bond goes to claim the chip. Severine spies him from across the way and her body guards watch him as he is given a briefcase with 4 million euro. She asks Bond to by her a drink and expresses her curiosity about him. Bond asks to meet her employer and she tells him that he knows nothing of fear compared to what she has experienced at the hands of her employer. Bond realizes that Severine was victim of the Chinese sex trade and that she was probably bought when she was young. He also realizes that her bodyguards aren’t there to protect her. They are there to keep her under control. She tells Bond that they will kill him but if he survives and wants to kill her employer, she will be on a boat casting off in an hour. She gives him the location of the boat and leaves.
Bond crosses the room to leave but is cornered by the body guards. He strikes one with his metallic briefcase and beats the other two agents senseless before the first body guard recovers and tackles him off the decorative bridge…and into a pit of komodo dragons. The man disarms Bond and tries to shoot him with the Walther…which doesn’t fire. As the komodo dragons rip the man apart, Bond climbs back out - only to come face to face with another body guard aiming a gun at him. Eve arrives and slams her stiletto heel into the man’s wrist, knocking the gun aside before knocking him out with a well-placed kick. Bond thanks her and gives her the money he recovered ordering her to bet it all on Red.
Severine takes a shower on her boat as it casts off. Bond sneaks aboard and the two have sex. The next morning, the crew takes them both hostage and brings them to an abandoned island. Severine tells Bond that her employer used his computer skills to convince everyone that a chemical leaked occurred a forced evacuation because “he wanted the island…and he took it.” Severine is taken away by a guard and Bond is tied to a chair to await judgment.
Bond finds himself tied to a chair in a room full of computer servers. An elevator descends from the upper levels of the building and Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) emerges. He introduces himself and tells Bond that when he was younger his grandmother owned a small island that had a rat problem. The way to solve it was to lure all the rats into a bin with coconut meat and then let the rats starve until they ate each other. In the end there would only be two rats, but his grandmother wouldn’t kill them she’d let them go because they wouldn’t eat the coconuts anymore; they would eat the rats. She had changed their nature. Silva explains that he was once M’s favorite agent and that M has been a very bad girl.
Silva informs Bond that Bond had failed every exam before being sent into the field and that M “sent you out here knowing you were not ready and would likely die.” Silva tells Bond that cyber-terrorism is much cleaner than “the old way” with spies going about playing games. He tries to undermine Bond’s training by making sexual advances which gives the two a laugh before Silva takes Bond out into the courtyard.
The courtyard is full of abandoned suitcases and items which were dropped and left behind by the previous inhabitants of the island. Silva says that it is a reminder that people do not know what is important to them and allows him to “shed the superfluous distractions from his life.” Severine is tied to a statue and Silva pours Bond a drink. Filling another shot glass with liquor, he tells Bond to prove he’s still the same man he was before Istanbul. Silva places it on Severine’s head and orders Bond to knock the glass off her head at gunpoint. Bond fires and misses, hitting part of the statue. Silva laughs cruelly, shooting Severine in the head and knocking the glass to the ground. Bond uses the distraction to attack the guards and kill them, leaving him and Silva alone in the courtyard. Silva asks what Bond intends to do alone and Bond says he isn’t alone showing Q’s emergency beacon. The air is surrounded by British SAS and MI6 helicopters. Silva’s been outplayed.
M arrives at the bowels of the new MI6 HQ where Silva is contained within a transparent cell. With Bond present, Silva recounts what happened when he was captured by the Chinese. How he suffered and was forced to take his cyanide capsule to try and end it all…but survived because “I knew I had to look into your eyes one more time.” He reaches into his mouth and removes his prosthetic dentures; his cheeks sink away and we see that the only teeth he have left are disfigured. The capsule ate away at his bone and he now requires the prosthesis to maintain the structure of his face. Silva begs her to call him by his real name but she says she doesn’t remember. She does say that it was engraved on the building he destroyed and will be erased when he is sentenced to death.
When M leaves, Bond follows and she confesses that she does remember Silva’s real name Thiago Rodriguez. M and Tanner go to a tribunal where M will face scrutiny for the deaths of the NATO agents though she can now tell the council that they have caught the perpetrator. Bond visits Q in his shop as Q tries to decode Silva’s computer which he describes as trying to decode a Rubik’s cube that’s fighting back. Bond notices the name of a subway station on the decoder and Q uses it as the base of the algorithm unfurling a detailed map of the British underground. As soon as the map finishes, all the cabinets and doors open in the cell. Bond realizes that Silva has cracked the system as a message pops up stating “NOT SUCH A CLEVER BOY” to Q.
Bond gets to the cell. Silva has escaped into the underground catacombs beneath the cell through the maintenance hatch. Q warns Bond that this plan was perfectly orchestrated years in advance and that he should be careful. As Bond ends up in a train tunnel, he tries the door Silva escaped through to find it locked as a train approaches. Bond shoots the locking mechanism and continues on until he arrives in a station. Silva has his men deliver a policeman’s uniform as Bond runs through the station looking for him. Outside a train platform, Q begins searching surveillance footage to find him and sees Silva dressed as a policeman. As the train starts to leave the station, Q tells Bond to get on the train forcing 007 to race after the train and jump onto the last carriage.
Bond hunts Silva through the train until it pulls into the next station. A large number of patrolmen responding to the lockdown of the area cause enough of a diversion for Silva to slip through an access door that he leaves open to taunt Bond. Bond follows him down into another set of catacombs and as Silva tries to ascend out of a manhole, Bond fires his gun missing each time until he’s a few feet away. He swears he won’t miss the next time and Silva laughs, pressing a button on his radio. He creates a hole in the ceiling but misses Bond. Bond asks if that was meant for him but Silva simply states that what happens next is. A train falls through the hole, forcing Bond to sprint out of its way.
M’s trial continues and Mallory interrupts the Arbiter to allow M to speak. She makes no excuses but she does recite some poetry that her late husband had always recited (Tennyson) which enforced that when push comes to shove it is willpower that sees all men to the end of their missions. Silva bursts into the room with three men and begins firing. Mallory hops over the bar and pulls M out of the way of Silva’s bullet which gets him shot in the arm. Bond arrives soon after, killing one of Silva’s men. He kicks a gun to Eve who provides cover fire with Mallory. Bond shoots some fire extinguishers to create cover forcing Silva to retreat, furious. Eve evacuates the council members while Mallory allows Bond and M to slip through a side door.
Bond emerges first and sees Silva retreat. He slips into M’s personal car and kidnaps her from Tanner. He tells her that they will need to go off the grid and dumps the car. They go to Bond’s storage room and take his vintage Aston Martin out into Scotland. Bond calls Q and tells him to lay a breadcrumb trail to draw out Silva subtle enough for him to find it but not obvious enough to arouse suspicions.
They arrive at Skyfall - the manor house in which the Bond Family resided. Bond is greeted by Kincade (Albert Finney), the gamekeeper of the Skyfall estate, who appears wielding a shotgun. He recognizes James and congratulates him on not being dead. Bond asks if they still have an armory but Kincade sadly informs him that the estate sold all the weapons to a collector from Idaho. All they have is Kincade’s shotgun and the rifle that belonged to James’ father, Andrew.
Kincade gives M the tour and shows her an underground passage which leads to a nearby church. He tells her about when James’ parents died and how he hid in the tunnels for two days and that when Bond re-emerged “he wasn’t a boy anymore.” Afterwards, Bond and Kincade go out to test out the rifle and Kincade reminds James to remember “how to shoot like [Kincade] taught him.” James follows his advice, perfectly hitting two targets in quick succession. Kincade is impressed and asks exactly what James does for a living. When they do the final tally they have several shell boxes of ammunition, a stick of dynamite and two rifles. Kincade says that sometimes the old ways are the most efficient and slides his knife across the table to Bond.
The trio goes about wiring the house with booby traps in order to ambush Silva’s men. Back in London, Q and Tanner complete the trail when Mallory arrives in a sling and asks what they think they’re doing. Q and Tanner stumble with words but Mallory smiles having realized they’re setting up an ambush. He gives them advice but Tanner asks what will happen if the MPs discover they’ve been forging input files. Mallory shrugs and says “then we’re all screwed I guess.”
Nightfall. Silva’s men arrive and begin their assault. As they stand in front of the entrance, Bond activates his car’s special feature a Gatling gun which helps chop down a few of the men. Several make it into the building and hunt for M. Kincade kills two off the bat but as the final two men enter the building, he drops his shells. As the first soldier slips out a side door, the second takes aim at Kincade’s head and is promptly shot in the head by James. The first soldier enters the room as M hides behind an antique wardrobe. She fires her pistol at the man but misses. He responds with a barrage of gunfire. Bond kills the man swiftly and pulls of his mask not Silva. Just then, he hears the sound of a chopper blasting music through the air. “Always has to make an entrance.”
As Silva’s helicopter lands, he directs his men not to kill M. Bond sends M and Kincade down the tunnels and tells them to run. Picking up a dead man’s assault rifle he takes aim at Silva as he approaches the house but Silva throws in a grenade. Bond circles through the house cornered as Silva continues to lob grenades through and through. Finally, Bond realizes that the only way to even the odds is to destroy Skyfall Manor. Grabbing two gas tanks and a stick of dynamite, he sets off an explosive and runs through the tunnels. The resulting explosion kills all but two of Silva’s men and shrapnel takes down the helicopter which SMASHES into Skyfall Manor destroying it.
M and Kincade emerge from the tunnel. M realizes that she was shot by the soldier by the wardrobe and Kincade helps her as they run to the church in the distance. Silva turns and sees the flashlight in Kincade’s hands from the distance and orders his remaining two men to make sure Bond is dead. Bond emerges from the tunnel and kills one with a swift kick to the face but as he chases down Silva, the second man appears behind him and holds him at gunpoint over a frozen lake. As the men struggle for the gun, Bond blows a hole in the lake that they fall through avoiding a bullet from Silva. Silva continues onward while Bond chokes the life out of the soldier. Trapped under the frozen sheet of ice, he grabs a flare from the dead soldier’s body and melts the ice cap.
Silva corners M alone in the church. Kincade returns, apologizing for not finding bandages but Silva aims his gun and begs him not to interfere forcing the unarmed Kincade into a corner. Seeing that M is wounded, he frets and is distraught to see that she’s dying. An almost romanticized sense of love, he begs M to end their lives together resting his head on her shoulder and putting the gun in both their hands so that they will leave this world with the same bullet. Suddenly Silva SCREAMS in anguish turning slowly to reveal Bond at the doorway and Kincade’s knife buried in Silva's back. Silva falls to the ground dead and M falls quickly after. Realizing that she is dying, she quips that it might be too late to make a run for it. Bond, tears in his eyes, tells her that he’s game if she is. She dies in his arms, assuring him that he was the one good thing she did.
After the reading of the will, Eve presents Bond with what M left him an ugly pug desk ornament which Bond hated through her tenure her way of encouraging him to stay as far away from a desk job as possible. They walk to the new MI6 office building and Bond realizes that he and Eve were never properly introduced to one another he doesn’t know her last name. Eve smiles and introduces herself as Eve Moneypenny. Bond smiles and tells her that he looks forward to working with her more in the future. As the door opens, Tanner tells Bond that “He’s ready for you now.”
Bond walks into the office where Mallory sits going through paper work arm still in a sling. Mallory asks if Bond is ready to return to work and Bond affirms that he is, referring to Mallory as “M” Mallory’s new title. M slides a file across the desk to Bond and welcomes him back.
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