Thursday, December 6, 2012

BOND 4: Thunderball

Director: Terence Young
Year 1965

Thunderball is an outstanding fourth go at the tremendously entertaining James Bond series, with Sean Connery again taking on the role of the suave and charming secret agent 007. Directed by Terence Young and lambasted with a cool and refreshing series of exotic locations, this Bond entry injects an exuberant amount of style into the formula which helps make it one of the most visually engaging of Connery’s outings. With its larger than life villains, unbelievably sexy femme fatales, and its espionage-edged sequences, Thunderball is an imaginative and thrilling adventure that throws every trick in the spy book at the viewer, as it displays one of the most enjoyable Bond adventures in the series. Lush in visuals and overwhelming in style, you’ll get lost in this classic 007 tale, as you’re drenched in picturesque locations amidst the sun-kissed shores of the Bahamas, all the while getting a front row seat at one of the coolest cats in the biz, Sean Connery as James Bond.

The film is set into motion when two nuclear warheads are stolen by the evil organization known as SPECTRE. Led by their number two man, Emilio Largo, SPECTRE secures the stolen weapons cache in a hidden cove off the coast of Nassau and threatens to unleash hell if their demands are not met. Answering the call to action, James Bond immediately takes on the case as he finds that his current mission is intertwined with SPECTRE’s overall plot. After doing some investigative work, 007 follows an intriguing trail of bread crumbs that lead him to Emilio Largo and his luxury yacht, the Disco Volante, docked in the Bahamas. Hot on his heels is a voluptuous assassin named Fiona, who under Largo’s orders, pursues Bond with a venomous fire and a sensual gaze. Amidst all of the dangers that plague 007, like man-eating sharks and an army of armed scuba divers, there is a ray of light in the form of Domino, a beautiful young woman. Held captive by the ruthless and cunning Largo, Domino might be the only key in finding the location of the stolen warheads and stopping SPECTRE’s diabolical plans. Can James beat the bad guys and get the girl? You bet your ass he can! They don’t call him James Bond for nothing.

Sean Connery, unsurprisingly, does it again as he epitomizes the character of James Bond for the fourth time in a row. In my opinion, this is the most accomplished of his portrayals and the suave nature and charming aspects of his character are on full display this time out. With confidence and swagger, Connery tackles the role with unparalleled skill, making for a viewing experience that is anything less than sublime. His iconic pull as an actor, coupled with the larger than life aspects of Bond, is a combination destined for greatness, and you can see the stride of the heralded character hitting a pivotal pitch within this production. He’s daring, inventive, sarcastic, and wholly watchable, more so then ever, and that is what gives Thunderball its potency. Of course the lavish locations, beautiful cast, and intriguing plot don’t hurt, but it is all held together by the tremendous acting chops and sturdy shoulders of Connery. Normally after an actor has reached the fourth portrayal of a particular character, you begin to see a sort of fatigue set in within their performance, but in this situation, Connery seems reinvigorated by the proceedings as he brings an energy and fun to the film like never before. Needless to say, Sean perfected the formula of “secret agent on a mission”, as he adds his own special flair into the mix to spice things up, making for one hell of an entertaining spectacle that only gets better with repeat viewings.

Feeling the weight of Connery’s performance and seemingly being inspired by it, Adolfo Celi takes on the role of Emilio Largo, the number two of the SPECTRE organization. Celi gives the nefarious man an enhanced severity and wit that perfectly matches Bond’s most celebrated of traits. There is a wonderful scene in this film that captures the genuine one-upmanship between the two, and this occurs when Bond visits Largo on his private estate on the coast. While taking in some target practice, Largo successfully shoots down his clay pigeon and sarcastically asks Bond if he wants to give it a go. Bond sheepishly tells Largo that it looks very difficult and then casually shoots his clay pigeon from the hip only to exclaim, “Why no, it isn’t, is it.” The scene is wonderfully executed and Adolfo Celi’s expression when witnessing Bond’s skills is both playful and apprehensive, which perfectly summarizes their relationship throughout the film. Like a game of cat and mouse, they gauge each other and size each other up, and the tension between each interaction they have is delightfully engaging and always amusing. The choice to bring Celi into the Bond fold was a brilliant one and he makes for a most fabulously memorable villain.

In true Bond fashion, Thunderball is never lacking in the beautiful female department as we are gifted two stunners in the form of Claudine Auger and Luciana Paluzzi. Each of these stellar actresses’ characters could be no more different from each other if they tried and against this picturesque tropical setting, the two just look absolutely unbelievable. Claudine Auger takes on the role of Domino, the naive associate of Emilio Largo who quickly becomes a prisoner when stumbling onto the truth of whom Largo really is. Auger is as captivating as they come, projecting an infectious innocence that you can’t help but get behind. With her natural beauty and sympathetic story, it’s hard to not root for her and hope she’s saved by Bond. On the other side of the coin is Luciana Paluzzi as she takes on the role of Fiona, the venomous sexpot who is as alluring as she is deadly. With drop dead gorgeous looks and a body to match, the woman requires a warning label in the form of a curves ahead street sign, and she uses these assets to great use in seducing Bond and any man that she comes into contact with in this film. Not only is she nice to look at, but Paluzzi is a stupendous actress who is famous for bringing an uncontrollable amount of passion and fire to her roles which not many can match, or handle. Her inclusion in this film is a definite plus in my book and her role is damn near unforgettable.

Speaking of unforgettable visuals, this film is jam-packed full of them thanks to the wondrous globetrotting imagery that is rampantly on display in Thunderball. From a stupendous opening scene set in a chateau in France, to some homey depictions of a Health Retreat in England, to some fabulously captured sequences off the coast of Miami, this film is quite a visual smorgasbord. Aside from all of these fantastic locations, the film mainly focuses its eye-catching efforts in the Bahamas where the main bulk of the story takes place. Crystal clear waters, sandy beaches, and lush coastal breezes are all that can be scene within this stunner of a film. Combined with its mid 60’s style and vibrant color tones, Thunderball is a true feast for the eyes.

When it comes to gadgets, the film takes out the big guns right from the on set as it introduces us to a jet-pack wearing James Bond. This out of control scene lets us know right from the gate that we are in for one hell of a wild ride. Taking the baton after that inventive sequence is a more subdued but equally engaging set of gadgets and gizmos that make up the inventions of Q Branch and aid Bond on his most perilous mission. From Bond’s Aston Martin DB5, to homing pills, to tiny breathing apparatuses, to underwater Jet packs and cameras, to the glorious Skyhook which closes the film, Thunderball makes good use of its aquatic locations. The gadgets and spectacle of the climactic underwater scuba battle is a thing of beauty and the filmmakers turn this violent opus into a poetic aquatic ballet filled with death and mayhem across every inch of the frame. The film is indeed a glorious demonstration of the stylistic quality in which can spring from the Bond universe at any given moment, and we are drenched with this heightened sensibility at every turn. Needless to say, Thunderball is a Bond entry that escalates the stakes in the most visually pleasing of ways and that’s a staple of a true great Bond film.

Thunderball is an unrelenting barrage of everything that the Bond universe has to offer, which is shot in a stylistic manner that only enhances the appeal of this long standing series. It has the iconic villains, the beautiful women, the wild gadgets, and the amazing locations, yet it is the way that they are all portrayed that really aid in making this entry a memorable experience. Sean Connery is pitch-perfect in the role that made him a household name, and the same grandeur and sensibility that he brought to the role three years ago in Dr. No, is present here only more succinct in its confidence.

Likewise are the performances by the rest of the cast. Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, and Claudine Auger are as captivating as they come and their inclusion in this espionage yarn is a thing of beauty. What I think most captivates me about this entry in the series, is the fact that everything just seems to gel so well together. From the locations, to the cast, to the overall story in general, the film just feels like a completely realized Bond world. Over the top and genuinely engaging at every turn, Thunderball is a perfect visual definition of what a Bond movie truly is. I admire the film for its combined and ambitious efforts, and I treasure the execution by Terence Young as this is one of the most enjoyable productions you’ll find in all of 007’s most accomplished of missions. This flick is like a…..


Damn Bond! You're so dang sneaky!

That better be one hell of a phone call! Unplug it you dumb shit!

The ladies love Bond's furry mittens.

Check out these two cool cats.

Largo's day dreaming about that new eye surgery.

Everyone's all smiles in the Bahamas.

Go fish.

This guy wasn't a fan of Bond's fancy fedora.

You better move your ass or you're shark food buddy.

Room for one more? Maybe? Dear god say yes!

It's sexy time!

My word! Your foot is exquisite!

Yeah that's right James. Do your thing.

The most violent synchronized swimming performance.... EVER!

This boat is so cool.... It's smoking!

Take that you son of a bitch!

James Bond... where do you get these wonderful toys?

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