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Justin Reviews: Thunderball

Bond and Largo

Let there be no mistake: Sean Connery is James Bond. After begrudgingly conceding that Daniel Craig needs to have at least one more outing as the secret agent with the license to kill to claim the throne, my vote for the title of the “best” Bond clearly falls to Connery, who’s cool and confident approach made the spy series feel real while maintaining its fun sense of adventure. Connery’s run was back when the Bond series was closer to realistic instead of its evolution to the crazy, over the top plots and devices that plagued Pierce Brosnon’s run as the famous 007 (those films were still good and fun, but they just took a larger grain of salt to get through). Connery’s fourth outing as the Secret Agent is 1965’s ‘Thunderball.’

After a NATO plane armed with nuclear missiles is highjacked by SPECTRE (who is holding the world at ransom for $100 million in diamonds), Bond joins the mission to find the missing plane and recover the missiles before the world has to pay (or before an undisclosed location is blown up by the missing bombs). The mission takes Bond to Nassau in the Bahamas and it is here that all the great, sexy spy adventure we have come to love and expect from the Bond series. The story has great Connery as Bondaction pieces including killer sharks and an underwater end sequence. It has great Bond leading ladies. Claudine Auger as Dominique Derval was great as the woman caught in the middle of international terrorism, her love for her brother (the killed jet pilot whose plane was highjacked) and Bond, who uses his infamous Bond suave and swagger to woo her, getting information and ultimately gaining an ally. And then there was, Martine Beswick as Paula Caplan, Bond’s partner on the mission in Nassau. I don’t think she spoke more than 3 lines in the entire movie and I still think I managed to fall in love a little bit.

Indeed, ‘Thunderball’ had all the making of a great Bond film. It was at this point in the series that everyone involved knew what the formula was and was able to deliver on that and still offer something new and exciting. If you think about it, it’s a pretty difficult task to impress an audience that knows how the film will play out before it even begins. So the credit for this film’s success is how well it plays within the confines of its world and how it comes up with ways to surprise the audience. Connery’s Bond is a huge asset to ‘Thunderball’ as he had perfected the role by this point. The second ace up the film’s sleeve (and all of the subsequent Bond films’ sleeves) was the gadgets. ‘Thunderball’ wasn’t at the point of underwater or disappearing cars yet, but rather it introduced the more sensible, realistic spy toys that always came in handy at just the right time (a compact underwater breathing device, a non-harmful radioactive pill that can help trace the agent wherever he is). All of these combined helped ‘Thunderball’ spur the series onward. Add a great opening sequence with a kick-ass theme song (Tom Jones singing ‘Thunderball’ [and, adding to its kick-ass-itude, it’s rumored that Mr. Jones actually passed out in the recording studio after singing the final high note of the song]), you can’t go wrong with ‘Thunderball’ as your James Bond fix.

-Justin

One thought on “Justin Reviews: Thunderball

  1. I’m a huge ‘Thunderball’ fan. Granted, I’m a huge Bond fan so it’s not that big a shock. That said, every Bond fan has their limits. (I mean, ‘Moonraker?’ Please.) I always thought of The ‘Ball as the bastard step-son of ‘Goldfinger,’ and ‘From Russia With Love.’ It’s one of the underrated films in Connery’s tenure as 007. (Probably ‘You Only Live Twice,’ is more underrated, but it’s neck and neck.) But as underrated as it is, it’s awesome. I mean, the villain has an eye patch. There are spear guns. And rocket packs. And people getting electrocuted in chairs.

    I want to go watch this now.

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