A Bond film is only as good as its villain.
After all, what is the point of having a protagonist like James Bond if the opposition is uninteresting and easily defeated? Javier Bardem’s recent turn as number 1 baddie in Skyfall has been critically acclaimed and praised by James Bond aficionados. As Raoul Silva, Bardem embodies the psychotic and diabolical legacy of the greatest foes of her majesty’s secret service.
He has a seemingly unending war chest:
Whether building an underwater city or a space station, paying for a private army or buying off government officials, taking on James Bond is an expensive prospect. Throughout the series, it’s clear that going up against 007 is a game for the 1 percent. As a cyber terrorist, Silva certainly fits the bill. He has the ability to bring down a nation’s economy or devalue its currency utilizing only a few keystrokes. Silva certainly has the resources to keep him in private island status… and a real private island.
He has a personal vendetta:
Previous vendettas range from wanting to kill Bond himself to destroying all of western civilization. The constant among Bond villains is that they have (at least in their minds) been wronged, and they intend to get even in an elaborate fashion. The antagonist’s passion for destruction must be greater than Bond’s desire to stop it.
Feeling abandoned by the government he once proudly served and placing all of his hate solely on Judy Dench’s ‘M’, Silva is out for vengeance. Plots against the head of the British Secret Service are nothing new; in the novels, the concept of getting even with “M” goes all the way back to the Kingsley Aims penned story Colonel Sun. This device is also used in the film The World is not Enough.
He has a physical deformity:
Dr. No had metal hands. Blofeld had that scar on his face. Scaramanga had a superfluous papilla…an excess mammary… a third nipple.
This one is not a hard and fast rule, but it applies more often than not. Silva has what may be the best deformity in the series: his jaw was dissolved by hydrogen cyanide. The reveal in Skyfall was among the most disturbing moments on film.
His determination results in disregard for human life:
It seems to be a given that once the mistress of the villain falls prey to Bond’s charms, she will be killed. Often the body of the “Bond Girl” will be left on display. Silva very unceremoniously dispatches his mistress by shooting her in the head and leaving her lifeless body chained to the granite feet of a statue. This is, of course, done to inform us that he is a stone cold killer and is only keeping our hero alive because he needs him.
So how does Bardem’s Silva stack up against the best of the worst from MI6’s rogues gallery? In the sadistic Silva, we see new blood. Is he the end result of Bond’s lifestyle? Gone are the elaborate death traps and super secret hideouts. The plan is not executed from an observation room, but instead it is instigated in person by Silva. There are no henchmen with special abilities or equipment. There are no poison tipped shoes or giants wearing metal teeth.
Though we know he cannot succeed, we believe he could. That is the genius of Bardem’s Silva and what ranks him among the best villains in the Bond series.
Who are some of your favorite James Bond villains?