ASSIGNMENT #004: Thunderball (1965)

SPECTRE has returned to move forward with its plan of world domination while James Bond is told by M to rest at a clinic rest up before he continues another further missions. Bond notices a man by the name of Count Lippe (Guy Doleman) at the clinic with a Tong tattoo. Count Lippe also notices Bond and tries to kill him with a spinal traction machine. Bond is saved by psychotherapist Patricia Fearing (Molly Peters) who he sleeps with (you should all know what he does to women by now). Bond after finds the corpse of French NATO pilot Francois Derval who was caring for two NATO atomic bombs, but was murdered by SPECTRE agent Angelo Palazzi (Paul Stassino). Angelo has gone through plastic surgery to get himself to look exactly like Derval to give SPECTRE by sabotaging the flight and giving it to SPECTRE No. 2 agent Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). Upon arrival, Largo kills Angelo for trying to extort more money than he was to earn. At Whitehall, all double-0 agents are called in for briefing as Bond is being chase by Lippe until SPECTRE agent Fiona kills Lippe. Bond, MI6 and NATO are told by SPECTRE their demands for $100 million in flawless uncut diamond in an exchange. If they do not comply, they will launch the bombs in an unspecified location in England or the United States.

Bond decides he want to take on the mission entitled Thunderball to foil SPECTRE. What follows is Bond snorkeling with Domino (Claudine Auger), Derval’s sister,  going to parties, getting information, getting laid, talking to Largo and reuniting with good ol’ CIA operative and resident Other Darrin character Felix Leiter (now played by Rik Van Nutter). Luckily, the boredom of repetition of slow dialogue and even slower underwater scenes is saved when Q arrives to give Bond some much needs underwater gadgets to help him on his mission. Bond tries to seek on board Largo’s boat but is kidnapped by Fiona. He quickly escapes through a parade and arrives at the Kiss Kiss Club where Fiona appears to attempt to murder him, but is killed by her bodyguard. Bond and Felix go to find the downed plane Derval was to pilot, but finds Domino and proceeds to make love underwater. Bond tells Domino Largo killed her brother and gives her a the Geiger counter Q gave him to see if the bombs are, in fact, on board. Bond in disguise finds out Largo’s plan to destroy the vacationing hot spot Miami Beach. After the plan is unveiled, Bond and Felix arrange an underwater ambush with the United States Coast Guards. Bond gets on board Largo’s ship, fights him, foils his plan, saves the day, makes love at sea, roll credits.

I know the synopsis this time is as detailed and a bit more unprofessional, but I have to get it out. Thunderball is one of the most boring films I have ever seen in my entire damn life and I’ve seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I know the film had some issues due to a dispute with the story creators and Ian Fleming, but it seems that seeped into the film. The innovative underwater scenes are very nicely shot, but they stop the film, along with the constant dialogue between Bond at the clinic and SPECTRE agents. These scenes intended to move the story along had the film come to a dead stop and give the film a very slow pacing. The chracters are all unlikable, with the exception of Q and James Bond. Largo isn’t even itimidating in the slightest and Domino is so forgettable I even forgot her damn name halfway during the film. The plot is even wasted as it isn’t even detailed or layed out until 40 whole minutes into the film. I counted it, 40 goddamn minutes. I really don’t mean to be like this, but just because the film is over two hours long doesn’t mean you have to use the entire length with filler. Thunderball should have been called Thunderbored. However, despite all my bitching and complaining, there are a number of great positives.

It did innovate how to film underwater and gave something cinema can use to its advantage, even if it was wasted. The best film that has full on underwater sequences is Jaws, but it does owe this film a lot for trying to film and move the camera underwater. Sean Connery as Bond is once again at his best. Connery could have sleepwalked (hell, even sleepswim) his role and he still would have been delightful. Q is back and he is fantastic, as are Moneypenny and M since they have little screen time to prove they are their roles. The final ten minutes of the film is where this movie shines and it is worth just a rental for that alone or a quick search on YouTube. Other than that, Thunderball is a blunder.

Thunderball had a tough act to follow after the fun Goldfinger, the near perfect thriller From Russia with Love, and the exciting Dr. No. Thunderball suffers with a slow pace, a waste of a fascinating plot, waste of talent, but helped innovate an amazing addition to cinema.

Assignment Status: 2.5 out of 5

Next time we see Bond, he is dead and in the water, only to return to find out who is behind the disappearance of American and Soviet spacecraft in orbit as it may be SPECTRE attempting to start World War III. In a mission filled with gorgeous Japanese women, a villainous lair, helicopter fights, ninjas, and a not as racist as it seems disguise, Bond must travel to Japan, born again and ready to take on Blofeld once more.

Next Mission: You Only Live Twice


P.S. Edit: The theme song for Thunderball by Tom Jones is actually pretty badass.

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