Raoul Silva: A Bond Villain Like No Other
Born Tiago Rodriguez, known better by his pseudonym Raoul Silva, is a formidable cyber-terrorist and ex-agent of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS/MI6). He’s engaging in an array of terrorist acts as part of his grand scheme to publicly humiliate and assassinate M.
He’s the main villain in the 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall, with his character brought to life by Spanish star Javier Bardem. In Spectre (2015), a follow-on sequel, Silva’s ties are revealed linking him to the infamous criminal network Spectre, affirming his membership within the organization.
Tiago Rodriguez, better known as Raoul Silva, has a shrouded early life ad not much is known about him. While holding James Bond hostage, he share an early life experience with 007 on his grandmother’s island where he learned how to deal with a rat infestation.
This narrative, which depicts trapped rats resorting to cannibalism, serves as an allegory for the corrosive effects of a spy’s life, in particular, his own.
During his tenure in the Intelligence Service, Silva worked alongside Olivia Mansfield, who’s later promoted to the role of M, in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1997. Mansfield, who served as the section chief during this time, discovered that Silva had taken it upon himself to hack the Chinese.
As the Chinese authorities started to close in on Raoul Silva and with the impending handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule in 1997, Mansfield made a calculated decision to sacrifice Silva in return for six other agents detained by the Chinese and to ensure a peaceful transition.
Throughout his five-month-long Chinese captivity, Silva suffered from relentless torture and harsh confinement. He tried to take his own life with a Hydrogen Cyanide implant lodged in one of his molars, a standard measure employed by MI6 agents to evade enemy capture.
However, the suicide attempt went awry, leaving Silva with deep mental and physical scars, claiming it “ravaged all of his insides”. The failed suicide attempt significantly damaged his upper jaw, resulting in a collapsed left cheek, drooping eyelid, reddened eyes, and impaired speech.
Silva’s original Hispanic tan faded to a ghostly pallor. He’s shown to have rotting gums, and most of his teeth have disintegrated, leaving the few remaining ones grotesquely disfigured. To mitigate these changes, Silva wears a prosthesis to restore his teeth, and inflate his left cheek to give him a normal appearance.
Raoul Silva’s Vendetta Against M
In more recent times, Silva hones his hacking capabilities and establishes a formidable criminal network. He takes Sévérine, a former prostitute, under his protection, but the seemingly benevolent figure he portrays is merely a façade.
He engineers a false alarm at a chemical plant on Hashima Island to secure it as his operational base. It’s suggested that he manipulated the 2011 Ugandan national elections and instigated economic crises worldwide by meddling with global stock markets.
His extensive cyber activities endow him with boundless wealth, influence, and resources, making him a formidable adversary by the time he encounters 007.
In 2012, MI6 is in the throes of a significant crisis when Patrice, Silva’s hired killer, purloins a hard drive containing the identities of all NATO agents currently deployed.
Silva makes M the crisis focal point by hacking her personal computer to decrypt the drive and he dispatches her a cryptic message to “reflect on her sins” before orchestrating a bombing at MI6 headquarters in London.
Despite M’s absence, eight MI6 agents lose their lives in the blast, triggering government pressure on M to step down. After this, Raoul Silva starts publishing videos online, unmasking the identities of covert agents, while threatening to reveal five more identities weekly.
As M consults with Gareth Mallory on handling Raoul Silva, they view news broadcasts showing agents being executed in an abandoned warehouse, later identified as his Hashima lair.
Despite sustaining injuries in a botched operation to recover the hard drive from Patrice and disregarding his subpar performance assessments, M dispatches James Bond to Shanghai following a CIA tip about Patrice’s upcoming assignment.
Patrice is tasked by Silva to assassinate an art critic, a task he accomplishes. Though Bond fails to discern Silva’s identity after Patrice plummets to his death from a skyscraper, he manages to track down Sévérine, Patrice’s contact, in a Macau casino.
After meeting Sévérine, she implores Bond to kill Silva, but tells him she doubts he will be successful. James Bond clandestinely boards Sévérine’s yacht, and they head to a remote island off Macau’s coast, Silva is alerted.
This island, Hashima, houses the former chemical plant Raoul Silva claimed by orchestrating a fabricated leakage alert, leading to the island’s complete evacuation and quarantine. On the island, Silva’s henchmen detain Sévérine and restrain Bond in a warehouse teeming with Silva’s tech gear.
Silva appears to confront Bond, unveiling his own past as an MI6 agent and graphically comparing both of them to tortured rats, a byproduct of M’s duplicitous nature.
Outside, Raoul Silva has Sévérine tied up with a shot glass of liquor on her head. He forces Bond to attempt knocking it off using an antique percussion cap pistol, but Bond tries to spare her by deliberately missing his shot.
Raoul Silva frustrated at Bond’s beligerence takes the gun and directly shoots her in the chest, killing her on the spot. As Silva seemingly contemplates killing Bond, 007 manages to neutralize and kill all of Silva’s henchmen, with Silva unable to retaliate as his pistol is empty.
Before Silva can escape, a swarm of helicopters, summoned by Bond using a radio transmitter he signalled before reaching the island, arrive, leading to Silva’s capture and subsequent transfer to London, England for interrogation.
Raoul Silva Held Captive
In England, Silva finds himself locked up in MI6’s subterranean emergency headquarters, a refuge following the bombing of M’s office. In his cell, he faces M and shares his contempt for her, originating from his capture by the Chinese and his unsuccessful suicide attempt, and his resolve to bring about her downfall.
As she prepares to leave, he reveals the grotesque effects of the Hydrogen Cyanide by removing his prosthetic dental device. A shocked and guilt-ridden M departs in horror as Silva, now with a gaping jaw, laughs uproariously after reinserting the prosthetic.
Meanwhile, Q, having secured Raoul Silva’s computer, deciphers a complex algorithm on its drive, with “Granborough” serving as the password, which unveils a comprehensive electronic map of subterranean London.
As Q connects Silva’s computer to his own to decrypt and recover the list, he triggers a dormant virus, and unintentionally enables Silva to infiltrate MI6’s computer network.
This virus compromises MI6’s defense system and unlocks the electronically secured doors within the base, including Silva’s cell door. This allows Silva to walk out of his celll, killing the guards on duty, and escape through a floor grate into the subway, with Bond hot on his heels.
After realizing that Silva has constantly maintained an upper hand, his capture was part of a meticulous plan he crafted over years, possibly with Spectre’s involvement. Bond quickly discerns Silva’s plan to navigate the subway and surface at the public inquiry building, with an aim to assassinate M.
Silva, one step ahead of Bond, has his henchmen provide him a Metropolitan Police Constable’s uniform, and commutes to the public inquiry via the Tube.
After a chase at the station near M’s deposition location, Silva successfully eludes Bond by using his police radio to trigger an underground explosion that derails an incoming train, nearly crushing Bond.
After this, Silva, and a few of his henchmen disguised as Metropolitan Police officers, storms the courthouse building housing the public inquiry. They kill three Metropolitan Police officers stationed at the courthouse entrance and proceed to the courtroom, where they open fire on M and other MI6 officials, M’s bodyguards, and anyone else there caught on the crossfire.
Gareth Mallory intercepts a bullet intended for M, and as Silva has failed to hit her, Bond enters the scene, slides a gun over to Eve Moneypenny, allowing her to join him in retaliating. After Mallory joins the fray, and they neutralize Silva’s remaining henchmen.
Bond then shoots at the room’s fire extinguishers, creating a smokescreen that allows M and Bond escape, aided by Mallory and Bill Tanner. Silva, expressing disgust, exits the courthouse building with his remaining henchmen, killing a minister on the way out.
Skyfall Lodge, Scotland
Anticipating a strong retaliation from Raoul Silva and his men following the thwarting their meticulously planned strategy, Bond decides to take M out of London, and they head up to Scotland in his Aston Martin DB5.
Bond arranges with Q to leave a complex electronic breadcrumb trail that only Silva can trace all the way to Skyfall Lodge, his secluded childhood abode in Scotland.
At Skyfall, Bond, M, and the lodge’s caretaker, Kincade, transform the house into a fortress, setting up numerous traps and explosives, even though they’re lightly armed. They wrap up just as the initial wave of armed henchmen, presumably Spectre henchmen, begins to advance from a nearby hill.
With the traps, Bond, and Kincade easily handle most of the henchmen, but one attacker manages to injure M with a shot to her hip before falling to Bond.
Silva’s absence among the gunmen doesn’t escape Bond’s notice. Now, with all the traps already deployed, Bond instructs Kincade to escort M to the nearby chapel via a tunnel beneath the lodge.
As night descends, a second troop of men, including Raoul Silva, reach the lodge in a helicopter. The chopper hovers around the house, continuously firing through the barricaded windows before touching down outside the manor.
Silva, backed by his mercenaries, steps out, throwing grenades into the lodge. After further taunting Bond and throwing more grenades, Silva circles the property and signals his helicopter to destroy Bond’s cherished Aston Martin.
Bond then locates a pair of gas cylinders and a stick of dynamite. He lights the fuse on the dynamite, attaches it to the gas cylinders, and promptly escapes through the underground tunnel.
The ensuing blast engulfs the lodge in a massive fireball, annihilating most of Silva’s henchmen and crashing the helicopter into the manor, causing further casualties. Silva, visibly shocked and angered, is momentarily disoriented by the blast.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Silva rises and surveys the fiery ruins. Spotting the distant light from Kincade’s flashlight guiding M towards the chapel, a determined Silva stumbles in pursuit.
Before setting off, he orders his two remaining henchmen to neutralize Bond, preventing any potential pursuit. Meanwhile, Bond, having survived the explosion, surfaces and incapacitates one of Silva’s henchmen with a flying kick that breaks his neck. A fight with the other gunman leaves Bond plunging through the frozen surface of a lake, allowing Silva to continue his chase after M.
Unhindered by Bond, Raoul Silva reaches the chapel and confronts M while Kincade is conveniently absent. When Kincade appears, Silva fires a warning shot and holds him at gunpoint, discouraging interference.
Silva, despite his deep-seated animosity towards her, appears concerned when he notices M’s bleeding, potentially fatal wound. Nevertheless, he forces a gun into her hand, aligns his head with hers, and insists that she kill both of them with a single bullet through their heads.
However, Bond makes a last-minute entrance and throws a knife into Raoul Silva’s back, causing him to cry out in excruciating pain. As Silva takes his final steps, Bond proclaims himself the “last rat standing”, a reference to Silva’s earlier speech in Macau.
Finally, Silva falls to the chapel floor, succumbs to his wounds, and loses consciousness before dying at Bond’s feet.
But in a bitter twist of fate, his scheme ultimately triumphs, when just moments later, M collapses into Bond’s arms, succumbing to her prior injuries and breathes her last breath.
Throughout the duration of Spectre, references to Raoul Silva are abound. The character makes an appearance in the film’s opening credits sequence depicted in shattered glass, seen alongside figures such as the former M, Le Chiffre, and Vesper Lynd.
Spectre’s leader, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, later mentions Silva as one of his associates. And the last reference to Silva occurs in the movie’s dramatic finale when 007 gets kidnapped and brought to the SIS Building, which is scheduled for demolition.
A printed image of Raoul Silva’s face is displayed on one of several cardboard targets in the now-derelict shooting range of the building. The building bears the significant damage Silva inflicted, which is evident.
The Actor Who Played, Silva: Javier Bardem
Born into a family of Spanish actors and filmmakers, and after making his his first film appearance at age six, Javier Bardem initially pursued painting before turning to acting to support his art career. His breakout role came in The Ages of Lulu at 21, and his international recognition grew with the portrayal of Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas in Before Night Falls, earning him an Academy Award nomination.
Bardem won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in No Country for Old Men, making him the first Spaniard to win the award. Other notable roles include Mar Adentro, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Biutiful,” and Bond villain Raoul Silva in Bond 23, Skyfall.
Director Sam Mendes had strongly advocated for Bardem to take on the role during the casting process. Mendes understood the character’s potential of becoming one of the best Bond villains ever, and he believed that Bardem possessed the necessary qualities to make Raoul Silva into what he became.
As professional as ever, Bardem got the script translated into his native Spanish as part of his preparation for the role, intending to gain a better understanding of the character. And then after engaging in brainstorming sessions with Mendes about his appearance, they came up with the idea of dyeing Bardem’s hair blond to establish a unique and visually striking appearance for the character.
Raoul Silva FAQS
What happened to Raoul Silva’s face in Skyfall?
Raoul Silva’s disfigurement was a result of a failed suicide attempt. Captured by the Chinese during his tenure as an MI6 agent, he attempted suicide by cyanide to avoid divulging secrets. The cyanide, instead of killing him, destroyed his jaw and caused severe disfigurement to his face.
What did Bond say to Raoul Silva before he died?
Just before he killed Silva, Bond said, “Last rat standing,” referencing their earlier conversation where Silva described them as ‘rats’ trapped in the espionage world.
Was Silva M’s son in Skyfall?
No, Silva was not M’s biological son in Skyfall. However, Silva considered himself a son figure to M due to the close relationship they shared when he was an MI6 agent under her command.
Why did Silva hate M in Skyfall?
Silva harbored a deep hatred for M because he felt she had betrayed him. When he was captured by the Chinese, he expected M to save him. Instead, she traded him for other captured agents, leaving him in the hands of the enemy. He felt this act of abandonment was a deep personal betrayal.
Is Raoul Silva gay?
The character Raoul Silva in Skyfall displays some sexually suggestive behavior towards James Bond during an interrogation scene, leading some to question his sexuality. However, the movie doesn’t definitively state that Silva is gay. His flirting with Bond could be interpreted in several ways, such as an attempt to unsettle Bond, assert dominance, or simply as part of Silva’s unpredictable and chaotic nature. Ultimately, his sexuality remains open to interpretation.
Who is the actor that played Raoul Silva in Skyfall?
Raoul Silva is portrayed by the Spanish actor Javier Bardem. Bardem is known for his roles in No Country for Old Men, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Biutiful.
What was Silva’s original name before he became Raoul Silva?
His original name was Tiago Rodriguez. He adopted the name “Raoul Silva” after going rogue from MI6 and starting a career in cyber-terrorism.
What was Raoul Silva’s plan in Skyfall?
He wanted to humiliate and kill M, whom he blamed for his suffering. His plan involved a series of cyber-attacks and manipulations to expose MI6 agents, attack the MI6 headquarters, and ultimately lead to a direct confrontation with M.
How does Raoul Silva die in Skyfall?
He dies when Bond throws a knife into his back just as it looks like Silva is about to kill M.
Was Raoul Silva really an MI6 agent?
Yes, Silva was an MI6 agent under the command of M. However, after being captured by the Chinese and subsequently betrayed by M, he became a cyber-terrorist.