2012’s Skyfall has a handful of sizable plot holes, but one of the biggest is the fact that Javier Bardem’s Silva ignored an easy way of killing M—but there is actually a reason for his choice. Released in 2012, Skyfall was a return to form for the edgier Daniel Craig incarnation of suave super-spy James Bond after the critical failure of 2008’s Quantum of Solace.
Following Bond’s attempts to thwart another campy villain in the form of Javier Bardem’s scene-stealing baddie Silva, Skyfall brought in American Beauty director Sam Mendes to lend the franchise a more kinetic and over-the-top air after Quantum of Solace’s stoic self-seriousness. The movie was well-received by critics, and Skyfall even secured a (censored) Chinese release, but the film still had some hard-to-overlook plot holes in places.
However, one of the biggest Skyfall plot holes actually does have an explanation in the movie (even if the answer isn’t all that satisfying). Silva may be a chilling villain in Skyfall, but the entertainment factor of his character alone doesn’t excuse the fact that his master plan that drives the plot of the movie doesn’t add upon closer inspection. Silva allows himself to be caught so he can hack into MI6’s computer system, but getting his computer picked up by Bond would have sufficed and left him both safer and able to finish his plan without escaping MI6’s detention. Meanwhile, Silva’s imprisonment is explained away during the ending of Skyfall when the characters note that he wanted to find out where and when M’s hearing is happening — but that information is public knowledge, so he could have just looked it up, and aroused no suspicion in the process.
Silva wants to defeat MI6 and kill M, and he hopes to do so by hacking into their computer systems and shooting her at her public hearing. But if M left her hearing early, or Q didn’t plug in Silva’s computer while at work, or Bond hasn’t missed a shot at Silva earlier in the movie, the plan would have fallen apart. So why the convoluted scheme? Silva could easily have killed M at a time when she was less closely monitored, and if his plan is intended to inflict maximum damage on the secret service as an institution, killing M in full view of the public would (if anything) prove that Bond’s employers MI6 should be given more support and powers. Silva claims he’s trying to take down the institution, but the head of MI6 being murdered would likely do the opposite. However, even discounting Silva’s strange assumptions about public perceptions of MI6, there are more practical reasons that his plan doesn’t add up, and Mendes’ Bond movie does an admirable job of making the choices seem believable despite how illogically both Silva and his enemies act at various points.
Silva gets himself arrested to find out when M’s hearing is, something that he could have easily looked up. This means he is in MI6 detention when his laptop allows him to hack into the institution’s computer systems thanks to Ben Whishaw’s new Q, but it seems to go without saying that Silva could have wreaked more havoc via this online hacking if he weren’t trapped in a subterranean prison cell when it occurred. It’s not clear how much Silva achieves by breaking into MI6’s systems beyond engineering his escape, but since he planned to get arrested in the first place, that just amounts to breaking even and leaving him back where he began before his detention. Presumably, having complete control of MI6’s computer systems could have let Silva do all manner of criminal business — if he used the opportunity to do more than merely reverse his own earlier arrest.
007 breaks into his boss M’s home twice in the Craig movies alone, so viewers can be sure that her security isn’t too perfect for Silva to get through, particularly when the character just orchestrated a daring cyber-attack on MI6’s headquarters. Meanwhile, M’s public hearing where Silva wants to attack and kill her is precisely the time and place where her security will be at its highest, as she is in full view of the public — and not only that, but Silva intentionally got himself arrested just before it occurred, meaning he had to plan a breakout and a break in quick succession. If Silva wants to prove that MI6 can’t withstand a cyber-terror attack, he could just have killed M before this and proven that by hacking the organization’s computer systems either before or after pulling off this unrelated murder.
Of course, the real reason that the Bond villain screwed up is the same reason MI6 couldn’t keep him imprisoned, as both the institution and Silva share a hubris that their enemies can rely on. There’s a recurring theme throughout the action of Skyfall that both the employees of MI6 and Silva consistently underestimate one another, with even Bond being foolish enough to assume that a former MI6 agent wouldn’t be able to escape capture by his former employers. Similarly, it is due to his arrogance that Silva lets himself get caught solely to prove MI6 were hopeless against terrorism, only for him to die being proved wrong.
If Skyfall‘s villain took MI6’s agents and James Bond himself more seriously, he would have separated his plan to assassinate M and his plot to attack their computer systems, but attempting to pull off both at once hampered the two plans and allowed Bond to defeat him. In comparison, M also underestimated the threat that Silva represented, a mistake that cost her her life in the closing moments of Skyfall as the villain successfully infiltrates Bond’s ancestral home and murders the MI6 boss before he’s killed by 007. It’s a theme that recurs throughout the edgier Craig-era James Bond movies that the once-untouchable MI6 has become complacent and allowed themselves to be outsmarted, a device that borrows from the Bourne franchise’s depiction of the CIA as a powerful but often short-sighted institution whose own agents can outsmart the organization by exploiting their blind spots.