- "Do you know what it does to you? Hydrogen cyanide? Look upon your work... mother."
- ― Silva to M as he reveals his disfigurement.
Raoul Silva, born Tiago Rodriguez, was a fictional powerful cyber-terrorist and former Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6) operative who committed a series of terrorist attacks as part of a larger plan to publicly discredit and kill M. The main antagonist in the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall, he was portrayed by Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, and was later referenced in the film's sequel, Spectre (2015), where a connection is established between him and the criminal organization SPECTRE in which he is shown to be a member.
Born Tiago Rodriguez, little is known about Raoul Silva's early life, though his name indicates he seems to be Portuguese or perhaps Brazilian. He later relates a childhood story to a captive James Bond, describing how he spent time with his grandmother on an island that she owned, where she taught him how to rid the island of a rat infestation by capturing them in an oil drum. He utilizes the image of the trapped rats turning to cannibalism as a metaphor for what the life of a spy does to its participants - namely himself. During his years in the Intelligence Service, Silva had worked alongside Olivia Mansfield (who would later be promoted to 'M') in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1997. Mansfield, who was section chief at the time, noticed that the operative had engaged in unauthorized hacking of the Chinese. With the Chinese closing in on Rodriguez and the upcoming transition of Hong Kong from a British colony to a special administrative region of China (a transfer of sovereignty) that year, Mansfield sacrificed Rodriquez in exchange for six prisoners held by the Communist Chinese government and a smooth transition.
During his five months of captivity, torture and imprisonment by the Chinese, Silva attempted to take his own life using a hydrogen cyanide implant in one of his molars as a standard means for MI6 agents to avoid capture by the enemy. The suicide attempt failed, horrifically scarring Silva both mentally and physically and he claimed it "burned all of [his] insides". The botched attempt is shown to have severely damaged his upper jaw so that his left cheek is sunken, leaving him with a drooping eyelid, bloodshot eyes and a slurred raspy speech. Silva's Hispanic tan is replaced with a pale demeanor. He is also shown to have rotten decaying gums and all but a few teeth have melted away with the few remaining having been mutilated and deformed, requiring Silva to wear a prosthesis to replace the teeth and inflate his left cheek and also to presumably help him breathe. The false teeth might have some sort of inhalers and even a possible electrolanryx. When this prosthesis is taken out, his face is disfigured.
Years later, he improves his hacking skills and builds a criminal empire. He takes former prostitute Sévérine under his wing, but the merciful man she thinks he is, is really an illusion. He causes a fake leak at a chemical plant on the island of Hashima in order to claim it as his base of operations. It is implied that he rigged the 2011 national Ugandan elections and also cripples economies through manipulating the stock market. His numerous cyber exploits grant him near-limitless money, power and resources. By the time he came into contact with 007, he is a force to be reckoned with.
In 2012, MI6 faces a crisis when the mercenary Patrice, Silva's assassin, steals a hard drive containing the identities of every NATO agent currently in the field and delivers it to Silva. (After this, he is shown in the opening sequence of Skyfall as a silhouette) Silva ensures that M was at the centre of the crisis by decrypting the drive using her personal computer remotely, and sending her a message advising her to "think on her sins" before bombing her office (knowing that she isn't inside), killing eight MI6 agents in the process, bringing her under pressure from the government to resign. He then begins posting videos online revealing the identities of the undercover field agents, threatening that he would post five more every week. Later, as M met with Gareth Mallory to discuss what to do with Raoul Silva, they watches the news which showed agents being executed in an abandoned warehouse (later revealed to be his Hashima lair).
Despite the injuries he sustains on a botched mission to retrieve the drive from Patrice, and ignoring the poor results of his performance evaluations, M dispatches James Bond to Shanghai after receiving a tip from the CIA about Patrice's next contract. Patrice has been assigned by Silva to kill an art critic, which he does. Though Bond is unsuccessful in learning Silva's identity after Patrice fall to his death from a skyscraper, he is able to locate Séverine in a casino in Macau, who acts as Patrice's contact, after finding a gambling chip belonging to the casino in Patrice's case. Upon making contact with Sévérine, she desperately asks that he kill Silva.
Bond boards Sévérine's yacht at night, which departs to a remote island off the coast of Macau Hashima Island - the former chemical plant which Silva had taken for himself by issuing a false alarm declaring a major leak, prompting a complete evacuation and quarantine of the island. On the island, Silva's men take Sévérine away and restrain Bond in a chair at the end of a long warehouse filled with Silva's electronic equipment. Silva enters to confront Bond, revealing his former status as an MI6 operative and gruesomely comparing Bond and himself to two tortured rats as a result of M's deceptive nature.
- "What is this if not betrayal? She's sending you off to me knowing you are not ready, knowing you will likely die. Mommy was very bad!"
- ― Raoul Silva interrogating Bond, referring to M.
Taking Bond outside, Silva then has Sévérine tied to a collapsed statue, placing a small glass of alcohol on her head and forcing Bond to try to knock it off her head with a shot from an old single-shot flintlock pistol. Though Bond tries to spare her by aiming to her side, missing both she and the glass, Silva takes up his own pistol and shot her directly in the chest, killing her and causing the glass to fall from her head. As Silva contemplates killing Bond, the spy is able to incapacitate all of his men with Silva unable to retaliate, having no shots left in his pistol. Before Silva has a chance to escape, a fleet of helicopters that Bond has signaled prior to getting to the island finally arrives, leading to Silva being captured and brought to England.
Captivity and escape
Back in England, Silva is confined within MI6's underground emergency headquarters, which they had retreated to following the explosion in M's office. When M confronts him in his cell, he expresses his hatred for her after his capture by the Chinese and his failed suicide attempt, and his determination to bring about her downfall. When she is about to leave, he shows her what the suicide pill did to him by removing his prosthetic dentures. A shocked, disturbed and remorseful M leaves in horror as Silva grins with a gaping jaw and laughs maniacally after inserting the prosthetic back into his face. Meanwhile, Q acquires Silva's computer and decrypts a complex algorithm on its drive, with the password being "Granborough" which unlocks to form a detailed electronic map of underground London. In connecting Silva's computer to his own, Q inadvertently allows Silva to hack MI6's systems using a virus, releasing him from his cell and allowing him to escape into the subway through a floor grate.
Realizing that Silva has always been one step ahead of them the whole time, his capture by MI6 and subsequent escape having been planned years in advance (with SPECTRE possibly having had a hand in this), Bond deduces that he plans to travel along the subway and emerge at the scene of a public inquiry into M's actions regarding the stolen hard drive. Silva is ahead of Bond, having his men deliver him the uniform of a Metropolitan Police Constable, and riding the Tube to the enquiry. After a chase at the station near where M's deposition is taking place, Silva is successfully able to evade Bond at the end of the chase by using his police radio to detonate an underground bomb that causes an incoming train to derail, almost crushing Bond. He then makes his way to the inquiry with a small number of henchmen (all dressed as Metropolitan Police officers), storming in and firing frantically at M, but missing when Mallory takes the hit for her. He never actually manages to hit M, as he panics when Bond suddenly arrives, who kicks a gun over to Eve Moneypenny and allows her to join him returning fire. After Mallory joins them and they manage to shoot down the rest of Silva's men, Bond shoots the room's fire extinguishers, creating a smokescreen and allowing M to escape.
After Silva flees the scene, Bond takes M and leaves London in his Aston Martin DB5, knowing that Silva and his men will come back in full force after his long-planned strategy failed him. Assigning Q to leave a complex electronic trail that only Silva will be able to follow, Bond takes M to the Skyfall Lodge, his remote childhood home in Scotland, intending to lead Silva into a trap. With help from the house's gamekeeper, Kincade, Bond and M rig the house with a range of booby traps and explosives, and finish just as a wave of armed henchmen (possible SPECTRE soldiers) begins to approach from a hilltop. Though most of the henchmen are easily dispatched by the traps and by Bond and Kincade, one of them manages to wound M with a shot to the hip before being killed by Bond.
Bond notices that Silva was not among the gunmen, and having already used all of the traps, he tells Kincade to evacuate M to the nearby chapel via a tunnel beneath the house. Night falls, and a second wave of men, including Silva, arrive in a helicopter. The helicopter flies around the house shooting through the barricaded windows continuously before landing outside of the manor. Silva strides out of the helicopter with his band of mercenaries and throws grenades into the mansion as he makes his way to the manor house. After throwing grenades through windows and taunting Bond, he circles the manor house and waves his arm in the direction of the Aston Martin. The helicopter then shoots it and it blows up.
Bond finds a pair of gas tanks and a stick of dynamite, timing them to explode after he escapes through the tunnel himself. Silva and his henchmen circle the house before it explodes, which manages to kill and incinerate the majority of the gunmen and causes the helicopter to crash with an angered and shocked Silva looking on in horror before being temporarily shocked by the blast. (Silva is presumed by the audience to have been blown up).
- "Last rat standing."
- ― Bond's final words to Silva
Silva gets up and looks at the blazing wreckage he is in. Looking across the moors, a crazed and determined Silva spots Kincade's flashlight as he escorts M towards the chapel, and stumbles after them. Bond emerges from the tunnel in pursuit, incapacitating one of Silva's two remaining henchmen by fly-kicking him, resulting in his neck being snapped. He purposely falls through the frozen ice on a lake while fighting the other gunman, allowing Silva to reach the chapel and approach M while Kincade is coincidentally out of sight. Despite his hatred for her, he appears worried when he sees her bleeding wound, but nonetheless holds a gun to her head. When he struggles to execute her himself, he forces the gun into her hand, placing his head beside hers and demanding that she kill both him and herself with a single bullet through their heads. At this point, Silva's psyche seems to have shattered even more.
- "You're hurt. You're hurt! What have they done to you? What have they done to you? [puts his gun in her hand] Free us both. With the same bullet. Only you can do it. Do it! Do it!"
- ― Silva urges M to kill them both.
Bond arrives at the last minute and hurls his father's old combat knife into Silva's back, declaring himself the "last rat standing" in reference to Silva's earlier speech. Silva collapses, dead, but his plan ultimately succeeds, as M collapses in Bond's arms and dies from her wound.
Throughout Spectre, Silva is frequently referenced. The character appears during the film's opening credits sequence in shattered glass alongside the former M, Le Chiffre and Vesper Lynd. During the course of the film, a connection is established between Silva and SPECTRE. As Q analyses Marco Sciarra's SPECTRE ring, the technology links the object to Silva along with several other antagonists from previous films, including Le Chiffre, Dominic Greene and Patrice. He is also mention by SPECTRE leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld as one of his connections. The final reference to Silva appears in the film's climax when 007 is kidnapped and taken to the soon-to-be demolished SIS Building. A print-out of his face adorns one of several cardboard cut-outs in the building's now dilapidated shooting range. The irreparable damage he caused to the building is clearly shown.
Raoul Silva was a young, tall and a bit muscular man with peroxide long blonde hair which was parted to the right and blue eyes; both were probably not natural. He wore a prosthetic upper jaw to conceal the damage done by the failed cyanide capsule; without it, his left cheek collapsed, causing his lower eyelid to droop as well, and he was left with only a few stubs of teeth which were grey with decay.
In his first appearance, he wore a cream jacket, a Prada tile print dress shirt, brown waistcoat and trousers, and brown shoes. After escaping his cell at MI6, he disguised himself as a Metropolitan police officer. In the final showdown at the Skyfall Lodge, he has a long trenchcoat, a communication earpiece, a black shirt and combat boots. His weapons of choice include explosives, a Glock 13, a Steyr M9-A1 (during the Skyfall assault), a helicopter gunship, a subway train, and antique flintlock dueling pistols (used to kill his lover Sévérine in a "William Tell" game he forces Bond to participate in).
When he was working under M, Raoul Silva had a deep admiration for the future MI6 head to the point of considering her a mother figure, and as a result, he experienced her betrayal as a serious trauma that destroyed him psychologically, hence his determination to play with her before killing her with his own hands (he even refused to let one of his subordinates do it in his place). This event also generated a great infantile anger in Silva, which pushed him to dedicate his life to send the wave back to M, but also against his country that he had sworn to protect and that he now considered guilty of the sufferings he endured under torture during his captivity.
In the present, Silva was a powerful, feared and ruthless terrorist whose only concern is to see M die, even if it means risking his own life to do so. He indeed often revealed an apparent disregard for the safety of his own life, allowing himself to be captured by SIS in a bid to exact revenge on M. Though he maintained an intensely strong hatred towards the MI6 head, he was also conflicted about her. He was convinced that he had survive to "look into [her] eyes one last time". During their confrontation in the MI6 cell room where he was held after his initial capture, Silva grew increasingly more agitated and deranged as she refused to show any remorse or regret for her actions, especially when she refused to use his real name. When he first met Bond, he also blamed M personally for compelling him towards a path that could easily kill him, quite ignoring his own willingness to do so. Silva called her "Mommy" or "Mother" multiple times, and he ultimately could not bring himself to personally kill her - to the point when he has her at the point of a gun, and can't bring himself to pull the trigger. He had a sarcastic wit, shown constantly against Bond during their battle of wits, even using Bond's own words against him. Silva was also an overly dramatic, flighty, flamboyant, peculiarly quirky, and colorful man with a flair for theatrics.
Despite his chaotic methods, Silva maintained an air of calm and often handled things with ease - even after his men were killed by Bond, and later held at gunpoint by the latter, Silva remained completely reserved and even managed to mock him. He was often jovial, rather refined and expressed himself with a polite and deceptively benevolent language. Silva also seemed to have an appreciation for classical music, notably Boum by Charles Trenet. During his attack on Skyfall Lodge, he had outfitted his assault helicopter with nearly a dozen loudspeakers - solely for playing rock music during the attack (namely Boom Boom, by The Animals), for the purposes of intimidation and being a nuisance. As Bond put it, he "always [had] to make an entrance." He was charismatic and very strategic, thinking of all of his plans in full detail and trying not to leave anything to chance, or else was very good at improvising. Silva was extremely intelligent, able not only to outsmart M, but Q and Bond as well, even going so far to use them as part of his plan while playing with their nerves. Even M, who has always been critical of Bond, described Silva as 'a brilliant agent'. Despite being revealed to have been funded by Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Silva proved himself to be master at puppeteering as well. Despite being a pawn, he certainly was not a puppet. Finally, he appeared to be sexually ambiguous; he kissed Sévérine and also made strong overtures toward Bond, though whether he actually meant it and was bisexual or simply doing it to mess with him is left up for debate.
It has been theorized that Silva had borderline personality disorder, which is characterized by intense fear of abandonment, emotional extremes, and an unstable sense of identity. He has shown sociopathic behavior, including a laid-back reaction to dangerous or sadistic situations, a lack of compassion towards even his allies (in particular Sévérine, whom he killed without any remorse after his betrayal), and above all, he was particularly sadistic towards M - before exploding MI6, he sent a computerized message mocking her, and later taunted her with unleashing names of NATO agents on YouTube to intensify the fact that she had failed.
- ""Think on your sins!"."
- ― Silva's message to M.
- ""Hello, James. Welcome. Do you like the island? My grandmother had an island. Nothing to boast of. You could walk around it in an hour. But still, it was, it was a paradise for us. One summer, we went for a visit and discovered the place had been infested with rats! They'd come on a fishing boat and gorged themselves on coconut. So how do you get rats off an island? Hmm? My grandmother showed me. We buried an oil drum and hinged the lid, then wired coconut to the lid as bait. And the rats would come for the coconut and... they would fall into the drum. And after a month, you have trapped all the rats. But what do you do then? Throw the drum into the ocean? Burn it? No. You just leave it. And they begin to get hungry. And one by one... they start eating each other until there are only two left. The two survivors. And then what? Do you kill them? No. You take them and release them into the trees. But now they don't eat coconut anymore. Now they only eat rat. You have changed their nature. The two survivors, this is what she made us!"."
- ― Silva's "Last Two Rats" monologue
- "If you wanted, you can pick your own secret missions as I do. Name it. Name it! Destabilize a multinational by manipulating stocks. Easy. Interrupt transmissions from a spy satellite over Kabul. Done! Hmm. Rig an election in Uganda. All to the highest bidder. (Bond: Or a gas explosion in London?) Just point-and-click."
- ― Silva explaining his list of cyberterrorist deeds to Bond.
- "They kept me for five months, in a room with no air. They tortured me, and I protected your secrets, I protected you, but they made suffer, and suffer... and suffer. And then I realized, it was you, who betrayed me. You betrayed me, so I only have one thing left; my cyanide capsule."
- ― Silva explaining his imprisonment to M.
- "Do it, do it. Only you can do it, do it."
- ― Silva's last words as he convincing M to kill him and before being stabbed by Bond.
- Only known on-screen as "Silva", some officially licensed merchandise such as Rittenhouse's 2013 Skyfall trading cards refer to the character as "Raoul Silva". The name appears to originate with Neal Purvis and Robert Wade's first draft screenplay (dated November 2010), wherein he was "a villain called Raoul Sousa (changed to Silva)".
- Discussing his character prior to Skyfall's release, actor Javier Bardem described Raoul Silva as "more than a villain". His co-star, Daniel Craig stated that Bond has a "very important relationship" to Silva.
- In casting the role, director Sam Mendes admitted that he lobbied hard for Bardem to accept the part as he recognized the potential for the character to become one of the most memorable characters in the franchise, so wanted to create "something [the audience] may consider to have been absent from the Bond movies for a long time". He felt that Bardem was one of the few actors up to the task of becoming "colourless" and existing within the world of the film as something more than a function of the plot.
- In preparing for the role, Bardem had the script translated into his native Spanish in order to better-understand his character, which Mendes cited as being a sign of the actor's commitment to the film.
- Bardem dyed his hair blond for the role after brainstorming ideas with Mendes to come up with a distinct visual look for the character.
- The character's YouTube identity "Vials" is an anagram for "Silva".
- Javier Bardem confirmed that Silva has Portuguese ancestry during an interview.
- His first name "Tiago" is a Portuguese equivalent of the name "James".
- Javier Bardem is the first Spanish actor to portray a primary antagonist in a 007 film.
- Silva is similar to several other Bond villains:
- Francisco Scaramanga: Both have some form of Hispanic heritage, and are presented as being Bond's equal. Both feel they share a certain special connection with James, believing themselves to be two of a kind (Scaramanga highlighting how, "We are the best" in their murderous field/Silva about how M made them the "two survivors"). Both cinematic characters have island lairs near China, and a fearful mistress (Andrea Anders/Sévérine) who, after conspiring with 007, are shot by the villain. The literary Scaramanga is also sexually ambiguous.
- Alec Trevelyan: Both are ex-agents who had once served MI6 and are essentially "Anti-Bonds". Both seek justice for a betrayal (Britain handing the Trevelyans to the Soviets/MI6 trading Silva to the Chinese). After leaving MI6, both start their own criminal rings, and major components of their plans involve great use of computer hacking.
- Elektra King/Renard: Both are motivated by some wrong that M had committed against them in the past and intended to kill her. In both cases, M took the option most dictated by duty rather than compassion or loyalty. Both Elektra/Renard and Silva remotely set off explosions in the Vauxhall Building, the official headquarters of MI6.
- Despite being the main antagonist, Silva doesn't appear onscreen until halfway through the movie.
- He is the first - and, to date, only - main villain in the reboot series to be killed by James Bond. (Le Chiffre was killed by Mr. White, Dominic Greene was killed by an unidentified assassin, Mr. White committed suicide, and Blofeld survived and is currently incarcerated).
- Silva is also the only main villain in the reboot series to have onscreen kills.
- He is currently the only Bond villain whose plans were ultimately successful, namely humiliating MI6 and killing M as revenge for abandoning him (although the latter is a posthumous victory as Bond kills him before M succumbs to her injuries).
- The whiskey Silva pours out for Bond is a 50-year-old MacAllan, a reference to the fact that Skyfall was the 50th anniversary film.
- Upon the film's release, Javier Bardem received widespread global critical acclaim for his performance, and role as a menacing Bond villain. Many 007 fans and critics noted strong similarities with Heath Ledger's The Joker from The Dark Knight (2008).
- Silva is something of a rarity for the James Bond series in that, unlike the majority of the other main Bond villains, including all the other primary ones in the reboot series starring Daniel Craig so far, he is genuinely a tragic figure to some extent who was driven to revenge due to being sold out by M despite his genuine loyalty and drive to be a good, proactive agent when he was with MI6, and as a result, was tortured to the point that he was driven to a failed attempt at suicide before coming to the conclusion that getting revenge on M was all he had left to live for. Therefore, unlike most other Bond villains, who probably would have turned out the way they did regardless of their circumstances, Silva is a rare case in the franchise of someone who's turn to villainy possibly, if not probably, could have been avoided had M handled the situation differently, making him one of Bond's single most 3-dimensional, fleshed out and humanized adversaries in the whole series, rather than just another foe who's evil simply because they're a psychopath and they can be.
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