The James Bond series was a monumental series for me growing up and, as I planned on featuring one of the 20+ films in the series as a Key Movie, I just couldn’t choose. Since I can’t choose a single one, I am reviewing each and every Bond film continuing with today’s entry, Thunderball
Welcome to Key Movies Of My Life James Bond Edition.
Today’s Key Movie:
Sean Connery returns in his fourth film as James Bond 007. This time he must find two atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE and soon finds himself facing the dredded Emilio Largo who is threatening to blow up a major city in the US or UK for a ransom demand of 100 million British pounds. Ending with an insane underwater battle the likes that had never before been seen on the silver screen, this Bond film would end up one of the successful film in the franchise.
Why this movie?
I remember the first time I watched this I was enthralled by the opening segment. Bond is once again finishing a mission but this time he is attending the funeral of Colonel Jacques Bouvar, a SPECTRE agent who killed some of Bonds comrades. At the end of the segment, and after discovering that the Colonel is in fact not dead, he defeats his enemy and escapes on a jet pack. A FREAKIN’ JET PACK! I mean how much more gadget awesomeness do you need? I know I wanted a Jet Pack as a kid and the fact that Bond had one only made sense. He is the greatest British secret agent of all time.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
The film itself is just another very fun Bond Adventure in the continuing saga of James Bond. It has some really cool moments involving identity theft through face swapping, a clever air heist segment and of course the well filmed underwater scenes. If I am not mistaken, the action of the film is nearly 25% underwater, and that is something that had really never been done before.
The cinematography is pretty great and not just in the underwater segments but in subtle ways too. One thing that I had never noticed was that, coming out of the opening song segment we are brought to France but there is a rather subtle and cool visual effect depicting the colors of the French flag overlaid on transition. It is quick but cool nonetheless. I will warn you though, although well filmed, the underwater segments do tend to go on a bit and probably could have been edited down a tad for time.
Sporting the classic villain eye-patch, the film’s antagonist, Emilio Largo, played by Adolfo Celi is one of the more competent villains so far. More Akin to Goldfinger than Dr. No, this villain is not afraid to get his hands dirty, even making time to kill his own operatives when the need arises. He is cunning, harsh and not afraid to take out the trash. We even get some of the, now troped, Villain/Hero candid conversations. Several times in the film both Largo and Bond battle through words and wits in addition to their ultimate end game fight. Ironically, the voice of Emilio Largo is overdubbed in this film like it was for Goldfinger.
We also get another chance to see the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld aka Number One. It is clear he has it out for our intrepid hero and does all he can to take him down. Including sending a rocket launching motorcycle after him. Yeah, you heard that right.
What’s more, we get to see additional ’00’ agents showing that Bond is one of many agents that are called upon to protect Crown and Country. I find it interesting that we rarely see any of the other agents in this series and, when we finally do, things don’t go so well for them.
This film also features the third incarnation of American Agent Felix Leiter, this time played by Rik Van Nutter. In this story, Felix once again assists Bond on his mission as they soon find themselves on American soil.
As for ‘Bond Girls’, once again the Bond Girl, Domino, works for main villain and winds up falling for Bond in the end. While Domino ends up a decent character of her own, the real standout is Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) who is a SPECTRE assassin hellbent on killing Bond. She proves to be a formidable foe and even calls Bond out on his reputation for turning female agents to the side of righteousness by sleeping with them only once.
On another note, the opening song, to me, is one of the worst bits of the series. Sung by Tom Jones, as far as I am concerned, it does not fit well within the ranks of the Bond Theme pantheon. Maybe it’s just that I am not a Tom Jones fan, but it is certainly one I skip over when watching this film.
Elephant in the room time: Bond has the misogyny turned up to 11 in this one and, at times, it is a little uncomfortable. At one point he even gets a little rapey with a nurse at a hospital/spa he is staying at while on leave. It’s a disturbing moment at best and really could have been left out without affecting the plot in the least. That being said, and it certainly doesnt make it right, but this was not uncommon in films during this time period and should be viewed through those lenses.
Overall it is a very solid entry into the Bond Mythos (minus the rapey bits mentioned above), and probably one of the best in terms of cinematography and script. It is one that I still enjoy time and again, even though I use some of the lengthy underwater segments as a time to grab a snack.
OK, where do I get this movie?
As with most Bond films, this is one you can easily pick up on Blu Ray, DVD and even digital formats. I highly recommend the digital transfer on Blu Ray as it looks tremendous. You can typically get them for around $10-$15, totally worth it.
and of course, the trailer.
Late To The Game 1/24/2019
James Bond will return in You Only Live Twice
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