In Istanbul, MI6 agents James Bond and Eve Moneypenny pursue mercenary Patrice, who has stolen a hard drive containing details of undercover agents. As Bond and Patrice fight atop a moving train, M orders Moneypenny to shoot Patrice, despite not having a clear shot; Moneypenny inadvertently hits Bond, who falls into a river. Bond is presumed dead, and Patrice escapes with the hard drive.
Three months later, due to a public inquiry into M’s handling of the stolen hard drive, M is pressured by Gareth Mallory, the chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament and a former SAS officer, to retire. She resists, claiming she is still useful, but MI6’s servers are hacked, and M receives a taunting computer message moments before the MI6 building explodes. Bond, who used his presumed death to retire, learns of the attack and returns to London. Although he fails a series of physical, medical, and psychological examinations, M approves his return to the field, ordering him to identify Patrice’s employer, recover the stolen hard drive, and kill Patrice. He meets Q, MI6’s new quartermaster, who gives him a radio beacon and a Walther PPK pistol.
In Shanghai, Bond follows Patrice into a skyscraper but is unable to prevent him from killing a target. The two fight, but Patrice falls to his death before Bond can learn his employer’s identity. Bond finds a casino token that Patrice intended to cash in for the assassination, which leads him to a casino in Macau. There, Bond is approached by Sévérine, Patrice’s accomplice, and asks to meet her employer. She warns him that he is about to be killed by her bodyguards, but promises to help Bond if he kills her employer. Bond thwarts the attack and joins Sévérine on her yacht, the Chimera. They travel to an abandoned island off the coast of Macau, where the crew takes them prisoner and delivers to Sévérine’s employer, Raoul Silva. Silva, once an MI6 agent, has now turned to cyberterrorism and orchestrated the attack on MI6. Silva kills Sévérine, but Bond alerts MI6 reinforcements, and captures Silva for rendition to Britain.
At MI6’s new underground headquarters, Q attempts to decrypt Silva’s laptop, but inadvertently gives it access to the MI6 servers, which also allows Silva to escape. Q deduces that Silva, who has disguised himself as a Metropolitan Police Service officer, wanted to be captured as part of a plan to kill M, whom he resents for disavowing and betraying him to the Chinese government in 1997, leaving him to be tortured and disfigured. Bond gives Silva chase through the London Underground and thwarts Silva’s attack at a Parliament inquiry where M is present.
Instructing Q and Bill Tanner to leave an electronic trail for Silva to follow, Bond takes M to Skyfall, Bond’s childhood home in the Highlands. They meet Skyfall’s gamekeeper Kincade, and together the trio set up a series of booby traps throughout the house. When Silva’s men arrive, Bond, M, and Kincade manage to kill most of them, but M is wounded. Silva himself arrives by helicopter with more men and heavy weapons, so Bond sends M and Kincade through a priest hole to a nearby chapel. As the house is destroyed, Bond escapes down the same tunnel and heads toward the chapel.
Silva survives the destruction of the house and follows Kincade and M to the chapel. He forces his gun into M’s hand and presses his temple to hers, begging her to kill them both. Bond arrives and kills Silva by throwing a knife into his back, but M succumbs to her wounds and dies in Bond’s arms.
Following M’s funeral, Moneypenny formally introduces herself to Bond and tells him she is retiring from fieldwork to become secretary for Mallory, the newly appointed M.