Thunderball (1965)













With "Thunderball", Terence Young takes back the Bond franchise and the series starts to make slight departures from the norm. The car is featured a little less, the girls aren't always seduced by Mr. Bond, and SPECTRE re-enters the picture though they aren't any less corny. This alliance has decided to steal atomic bombs and threaten Britain and America with said explosives. MI6 and the CIA aren't too keen on this idea, but by the time they find out, it's already too late.
James Bond, while recovering from another mission, finds himself stumbling onto the case and being tailed by members of SPECTRE, who can now be identified by tattoos and rings (after all, what's the point of being in a secret club if you don't have blatantly obvious signs that point to this clandestine organization?).
In an very effective and somewhat eerily peaceful scene, we seen Number Two of SPECTRE and his minion's carry out the stealing of the bombs. The underwater filming is new to the Bond franchise and is probably the reason why "Thunderball" succeeds. Many, many scene takes place entirely under the waves, without corny dialogue or smart one-liners (don't get me wrong, those can be appreciated; but in smaller doses).
Number One, who we still haven't seen, of SPECTRE demands total compliance, total commitment, and total success...when he gets disappointed, some people might end up six feet under.
The beginning of "Thunderball" is weak, featuring a scene in which a therapeutic machine is supposed to become imposing and deadly at the flip of a switch. Bond rapidly discovers that SPECTRE doesn't want him interfering with their plans anymore and they do their best to keep him out; but Bond's middle name is Feisty so naturally he can't be kept down.
For the first time in the Bond franchise do we really have an adversary that is both an intellectual and physically capable of taking care of himself.
Number Two, with his evil eyepatch and shark pool, never gives the stereotypical villain speech. He doesn't try to spare Bond's life for sport and he isn't fooled by unnecessary distractions. This villain is honed in and shooting for what he wants, if he misses Number One might fry him like a good piece of chicken.
Probably cruel to the animals that are featured in the movie, "Thunderball" manages to not let you feel too bad for the poor critters that must have given their all for the picture...at least they went out on one of the good films (not really consolation, but that's how I justify it to myself).
It must have been such a pain to film "Thunderball" because so much of it is in a helicopter and so much of it is underwater. At both of these extremes, Terence Young proves that the franchise is back in good hands. Though Guy Hamilton would come back and direct several of the films later, Young defined the franchise and let everyone else build from there.
Based on an original screenplay idea from Jack Whittingham, "Thunderball" also shows a slight move away from Ian Fleming...it's subtle, but still present.
This movie plays out more like a heist than a straight-up action flick.
Also starting here (really starting with "Goldfinger") is a big-name pop star singing the title song. Tom Jones is this movie's muse and he delivers quite well.
Inspiring other action movies to come with such fun treats like Doppelgangers, an electric chair, disappearing acts, and (of course) last minute satisfaction "Thunderball" is a very fun movie.
Other spies make screen time with Bond, he doesn't always save the day, and the girl is more than a pair of...um...conch shells with a tan.
You still have to expect the gratuitousness of the movie, but it's still not as bad as its predecessor. There are no lame sidekicks to show up here. Young has his own formula that he follows and with "Thunderball" he strikes gold...finger.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.









Score: ★★★½  

No comments:

Post a Comment