Thunderball (1965)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Thunderball</strong> (1965)

(Second viewing, On Blu Ray, September 2018) By the time its fourth instalment came around (a remarkably short four years after its debut), the James Bond series had it all: a well-honed formula, a rapt audience and a star coasting on pure charisma. This may explain why, after the early highs of Goldfinger, its follow-up Thunderball can feel just a notch less interesting. Much of the elements are firmly in place: exotic locales (although recycling some of the Dr. No scenery), memorable Bond Girl Domino, even more memorable antagonist Largo, one of the biggest Bond Gadgets in the Disco Volante yacht that sheds its rear end to become a hydrofoil, and a big nuclear-driven plot. (Oh, and an unforgettable Tom Jones song.) Alas, much of the film is messier than needed: The opening segment set in a health clinic has a confusing game between Bond and prey (and a distasteful example of coerced seduction), many of the underwater scenes feel longer than needed, and some of the ambitious special effects don’t sustain contemporary scrutiny. Still, much of the fun of the classic Bond era remains. Sean Connery may be overfamiliar with the role by this fourth outing in four years, but he does remain as cool as the character has even been. Q is back with a few gadgets, we get a glimpse inside Spectre’s boardroom, but the one great scene in the film is one where the femme fatale explains in some detail that Bond will not turn her to the light side through his seductive powers. Otherwise, after three films where the Bond formula gets formalized, this is a film that feels more on autopilot than the others, even if the execution, with its numerous underwater sequences, feels as maximalist as it was possible at the time. It’s still good fun, and it’s going to be interesting to revisit its remake Never Say Never Again so shortly after seeing Thunderball.

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