It’s safe to say that James Bond is back in action.
Sure, they said that about “Goldfinger”, but I believe “Thunderball” was far more exciting and more down-to-Earth than “Goldfinger” was. Of the films following “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love”, I also think that “Thunderball” was the film that could most closely relate to those two. By that, I mean, Bond seems like the Bond he was in those films, the locations are again stunning, we’ve got beautiful women, tons of danger, and the return of another bunch of ruthless SPECTRE agents.
The locations in this Bond flick were nearly as gorgeous as the places we saw in “Dr. No”. Sure, at first we’re stuck with Bond while he’s at the clinic- what could be beautiful about that location? However, as we move on to Nassau, there’s hardly an unattractive site. The water’s gorgeous, the beaches are beautiful, the hotel is high-end and comfortable looking, and the streets are swarming with plenty of people. Then, we even get a look at SPECTRE’s main meeting room- grand and diabolical-seeming, thanks again to Ken Adam.
Barry delivers another superb soundtrack, with plenty of themes that fit right in with the underwater scenes, beach scenes, and the beauty of the locations. We also get a few Bond themes, which also add Connery’s suave and stylish looks in the film. Not much to complain about here. My favorite piece is probably the Chateau Flight, which really enhances Bond’s pre-title sequence fight.
Emilio Largo- I see him as a Dr. No: 2.0. He’s certainly a well-respected SPECTRE member, and even has the high rank of #2. He’s a very serious man, even when he’s joking around with Bond. By the way he treats Domino, and his fellow SPECTRE henchmen, it’s pretty easy to notice that Largo will do anything to succeed with his plans and impress Blofeld.
I see Connery’s performance in this film as one step below his performances in “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” . For me, they’re his top-notch performances… but his acting in “Thunderball” doesn’t fall far from them. Again, as he had in the past three pictures, he’s got that natural Bond style, look, and attitude. Having viewed all of the Connery films this week, to me, it’s safe to say that this man is the only classic cinematic James Bond. I don’t think anyone can replace him.
The girls in this movie were gorgeous. We had Domino, Fiona, and Paula. Unfortunately, we didn’t see Paula as much as the others; however she was a very pretty woman for Bond to be working alongside of. Fiona- definitely the best bad girl of the Bond series, and sexiest bad girl, too. Then, Domino- an innocent, nice girl, caught up in one big mess, in my opinion. The gorgeous Claudine Auger played the part well, and she was certainly a memorable Bond girl.
Rik Van Nutter played a decent Leiter, I suppose. It wasn’t great, nor atrocious. I certainly thought his Leiter could be taken more seriously than Linder’s from “Goldfinger”. It further proves that no Leiter was as great as Lord, though.
Aside from those aspects, “Thunderball” offers classic Bondian action, romance, humor, locations, plots, and characters. The overall plot of the film wasn’t too complex, and intelligent- much like the earlier films. The gadgets were kept to a minimum: Bond had the re-breather, which is probably one of the most useful Bond gadgets. The jetpack was good fun in the pre-title sequence, too. The rest of the gadgets seemed more like real spy gadgets- the watch, the camera, the tracking pill. I think they threw a realistic touch on the world of Bond gadgets.
There are a few choppy bits of editing in this film, however, it’s not anything to get worked up about.
Other than that, “Thunderball” makes for an excellent Connery Bond film, and is a superb addition to the series. While I hold “Dr. No” and “From Russia With Love” higher than it, “Thunderball” is given a secure #3 spot in my Bond film ranking list. Also- perhaps Terence Young has to do with my liking of some of the early Bond films. I just thought I’d give him a nod here, as he’s my favorite Bond director.