And after aaaaaaaaaallll, you’re my Thunderbaaaallll… Which was the first words that came out of my flatmate when I told him I was about to watch the fourth James Bond […]
And after aaaaaaaaaallll, you’re my Thunderbaaaallll…
Which was the first words that came out of my flatmate when I told him I was about to watch the fourth James Bond 007 adventure Thunderball. By this point, Bond is a worldwide icon after the smashing success of Goldfinger and Thunderball would be the first film to truly follow the formula rather than add anything to it. Terence Young comes back for his third and final Bond as director. Thunderball was given three times the budget of Goldfinger ($9 million) and made $141.2 million at the box office, out performing its predecessor. Thunderball would bring Bond back in action against SPECTRE agents, led by the eyepatch-wearing Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi).
The plot of Thunderball revolves around a SPECTRE plot to steal nuclear weapons from NATO and then blackmail the US and UK governments for £100 million or else they would nuke an unknown city in one of the two countries. The two countries send some of their top agents to find out where the weapons are, who is behind the plot and then reclaim the weapons before they have to pay the ransom.
Bond, fresh off of killing a SPECTRE agent at their own funeral while said agent was dressed as his own widow and then escaping on a jetpack, is relaxing at a spa that just so happens to be home of a couple of SPECTRE agents – one of whom a Mr. Angelo is going through extensive plastic surgery so he can disguise himself as a NATO pilot and steal the weapons, which he does so successfully but is left to drown due to his demand of a higher fee, the rascal.
During a debriefing with M and the Home Secretary of the British Government, Bond recognises the NATO agent as a dead person he saw at the spa so he decides, in true James Bond style, to weirdly stalk the dead NATO agent’s sister in Nassau and hope she will lead him to the baddies. SPOILERS: he’s right.
After making his acquaintance with the girl, hereby known as Domino, he quickly learns that she is involved with a man called Emilio Largo, who has an eyepatch so he obviously turns out to be evil. He has a pool at his house that is full of sharks if you want to know the kind of villain he is. Largo – being a high level SPECTRE agent – wants to get rid of Bond but doing so might tip off the other agents working this case that the weapons are on the island. A second SPECTRE agent, Fiona Volpe, also gets involved in Bond’s business – killing his partner and then sleeping with Bond before kidnapping him. However as Largo’s men try to kill Bond, they inadvertently kill Volpe. Silly gooses.
By this point Bond and Domino are growing close much to the disgust of Largo. Bond eventually finds the plane where he finds Domino’s fake brother and gives her the proof that her bro was killed by Largo. Immediately after sleeping with her. ConneryBond’s track record with women is very consistent…ly terrible. He gives Domino a device to track when the bombs are loaded onto Largo’s ship, however Largo catches her and ties her up in his bedroom.
However, Bond is able to get the message to his good American friend Felix (played by the third different actor in three films) that they are going to Miami to detonate the weapons and they intercept them. A big underwater battle ensues and Largo’s men start to surrender. Largo escapes with one of the bombs back to his boat. Bond manages to get on board but as Largo is about to kill 007, Domino shoots him with a harpoon gun. Largo falls onto the wheel of the boat causing it to speed towards a bunch of rocks however our heroes escape just in time.
Thunderball is definitely a bit cheesier than Bond’s previous outings – from the jetpack in the intro to the shark infested pool there is definitely an element of this film really embracing the campiness of the spy genre in this one. It’s not quite Moore-levels of near self-parody but it’s definitely more prevalent in this one than the previous three. There’s nothing wrong with that though it makes for some fun viewing. I do think Thunderball is a downgrade from Goldfinger though – it’s a fairly standard plot for a villain to threaten to nuke a city especially in the Cold War panicked world that was the 1960s. There are a few underwater action scenes which are impressive in theory but there is maybe just a little too much of them and the last big fight scene under the sea feels like it goes on forever.
Sean Connery at this point had nailed James Bond down to a tee and thus plays him with well earned confidence. Largo ends up being a fairly decent villain, pure evil but is caught between trying to make to throw Bond off the scent while also really wanting to kill him. Domino isn’t the most fascinating Bond girl but she serves her role pretty well – Fiona Volpe ends up being the more interesting female character in the film. Volpe is able to match Bond in wits and even manages to throw in a dig at Bond trying to use his love-making abilities to try and turn bad girls good. I kinda wish she got more movie time to develop – she could have potentially been THE villain if she did.
I do think Thunderball is an enjoyable movie but in terms of a Bond movie it’s not the most interesting to talk about. It is outclassed by it’s previous two and the next few have a lot of things to talk about. Thunderball ends up getting caught in the shuffle – even though it did give us Bond on a jetpack. It’s still a fun watch and I’d happily watch it again in the future, I just think that Thunderball is proof that the Bond formula was working at the time and it doesn’t offer too much in the way of surprises.