007 In Hostile Waters
Warning: this review does contain a few vague spoilers.
This fourth instalment of the James Bond series takes the story back to Spectre, but this time with a plot worthy of a hero. Thunderball, released in 1965, stars Sean Connery as James Bond, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi and Rik Van Nutter.
Let's just start of by saying that if Goldfinger didn't exist, this would definitely be Sean Connery's best 007 film, and to some, this movie may even be the better one. For good reason, too! The action is even more intense, the scenes are skillfully shot, and the acting is top-notch. The one thing that really holds this movie back is the villains, which can easily make or break any story such as this.
The main villain of Thunderball is Largo, played by Adolfo Celi, the man tasked with a terrifying plot to hold the world at ransom. The biggest problem is that this guy wasn't memorable for any reason. For most of the episode he was just the guy wearing an eye patch who had a shark fetish. Sure, he gave the orders to his minions as his dastardly plot unfolded, but that's really about it. Unlike his predecessors, there wasn't any scene where he felt like he was the true mastermind. Maybe if he got his hands dirty more often, instead of letting his minions or pets do all the work, he would have appeared more sinister. On the bright side, at least there wasn't any huge speech revealing his plans. Plus, this villain pushed the story into a new direction... Straight into the water!
So much of this movie is filmed underwater or on the water that it almost feels like an aquatic journey at times. They aren't just close up shots of actors, either, but massive wide-angle shots showing dozens of actors working in unison to make these massive scenes come to life. With how difficult it is for current filmmakers to film underwater, I can't even imagine how difficult it must have been to do this back in the mid-1960s! Granted, everything was obviously shot in shallow water, but the idea of having the camera, crew, and actors submerged with scuba gear and air tanks for some of these long shots much have been gruelling and dangerous!
Even more amazing, Thunderball's largest action scene was underwater, too. It was like watching two small armies colliding deep under the ocean as they fought hand-to-hand and with harpoons, while weaving through sunken wreckage and around submersibles. Sure, it was on the slow side, you can't move very fast in water, but it was still a breathtaking experience.
It's too bad that they didn't drown Bond's sexist attitude while they were at it, though. This time, he doesn't just treat women like sex objects, he also hurls sexist remarks at them, too. Apparently telling a woman she swims like a man is a compliment... Who knew? I know that men apparently ruled the world during this era, but I can't understand why anyone would want to spend time with this man, never mind sleep with him.
Nevertheless, Thunderball is a very entertaining movie, even with its flaws. If the sexist attitude was watered down, and a few tweaks to the villain, this would easily be my pick for the best Classic Bond movie. But it just isn't meant to be.
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