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Skyfall begins with James Bond chasing a bad guy through the crowded streets of Istanbul. But why? That's nobody's business but the Turks'. And M's. As the head of MI6, Her Majesty's Secret Service, everything is her business. Okay, well, the bad guy has stolen a list of the real identities of MI6's secret agents. If that list gets out, it's everybody's business, and that's bad for business.
Bond, with fellow agent Eve, pursues the bad guy on a breakneck chase onto a speeding train. After a few train tunnel moments that wouldn't be out of place in a Looney Tunes cartoon, Bond and the bad guy grapple on top of the train as it crosses the bridge. Eve has the bad guy in her sights—literally. She's looking through the scope of a sniper rifle, and M orders Eve to take the shot even though she might hit Bond.
She hits Bond.
Way to go, Eve. Her friendly fire did what bad guys from Dr. No to Blofeld to Le Chiffre have been trying to do for half a century—kill James Bond.
Bond plummets into the ocean, and his lifeless body is carried away by the waves.
In England, M mourns, but only for a moment. She has to face government scrutiny for flubbing the mission and letting the list fall into enemy hands. Mallory, the Chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee, says she will be forced to "voluntarily" retire. To make a bad day worse, someone blows up her office.
At least she's not in it when it happens.
Bond is alive, of course, recovering on a tropical island with his favorite medicines—beaches, babes, and booze. After seeing the MI6 bombing on TV, Bond returns to England ready to fight. M accepts him back but forces him to go through a series of mental and physical evaluations. Bond passes...but unbeknownst to him, he only passes because M lies about his score.
Bond pursues Patrice, the newly identified guy from the train, to Shanghai. Atop a building, Bond kills Patrice by accidentally dropping him off said building. And we're not being sarcastic about the whole "it was an accident" thing—he only meant to scare the guy. Oops.
Bond recovers Patrice's suitcase, which contains a poker chip from an exclusive casino in Macau. Time to ante up.
At the casino, Bond meets Severine, a woman with ties to whoever is behind this whole mess. She agrees to lead him to her boss, who lives on a deserted island. It's deserted because her boss hacked into the network of the city and made them think that there was a deadly gas leak. Everyone evacuated, leaving the whole place behind for the taking. That's one way to get what you want.
Bond is tied to a chair for the big bad to make his big entrance. The big bad, Silva, is a former agent. After being sacrificed by M during a mission (sound familiar?), he has vowed to get revenge against her.
Severine is sadly killed in a shootout, but Bond manages to capture Silva and radio MI6 to get him back to England. Mission accomplished?
No, we still have about an hour to go.
Silva, caged at the new MI6, confronts M. She coldly refuses to acknowledge him, which only makes him angrier. But despite all his rage, he's still just a rat in a cage. Silva is safely secured, until Q—MI6's tech expert—accidentally lets him out.
When Q attempts to hack into Silva's computer, Silva's computer hacks back, completely exposing MI6's defenses. Silva escapes. Bond gives chase. Silva manages to arrive at a hearing where M is on trial for the incident from the beginning of the movie. He opens fire. Mallory jumps between M and Silva and is shot. Bond arrives in the nick of time and rescues M from the fracas.
Mallory survives and helps Q set up a fake trail to lure Silva to Skyfall, James Bond's childhood home in the middle of nowhere in Scotland. Bond and M drive to Skyfall in a classic Aston Martin. At Skyfall, they prove to have seen Home Alone too many times as they rig the entire house with deadly traps to counter Silva's impending assault.
With the help of Kincaid, Skyfall's elderly gamekeeper, Bond and M successfully dispatch all of Silva's men. Silva himself shows up—fashionably late as always—in a helicopter blaring rock music. No, really.
M and Kincaid flee through a secret tunnel. Bond follows soon after, setting up a bomb that will blow Skyfall to smithereens and hopefully take Silva with it.
Silva escapes the explosion and pursues Kincaid and M, who has been shot by one of Silva's men but is hiding it. Silva approaches M and demands that she kill them both with one bullet. He gives her a gun and puts his head next to hers. Silva gets his death wish, but not in the way he hopes, when Bond throws a knife through his back.
Silva dies, which is a victory, but M also dies, which is an even bigger loss. She looks Bond in eyes and says, "I did get one thing right," then dies. Bond cries. And when Bond cries, we all cry.
Back in England, after M's will is read, we find out she's bequeathed her ugly bulldog statue to Bond. He takes it as a sign that he is to continue fighting for England, and he vows to do so. His first order of business is to report to Mallory, who is the new M.