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Thunderball (1965)  rating

Review: written 2007

Bond matures gracefully, but could do with a trim


It is hardly possible to imagine an actor inject so much charisma into a role as Connery does here as Bond in Thunderball. Truth be told, it is really the glue that holds a movie together that otherwise might look rather frayed round the edges, despite the spectacularly tasty ingredients on display.

So what is it about? SPECTRE, Bond's arch enemies, have hatched a plan to seize two nuclear warheads from the British by capturing a Vulcan bomber on a training mission. Then, of course, a diabolical megalomaniac asks for 100 million dollars while stroking his cat. All the double-0's are brought in to get put on the case - but Bond has a lead - and of course it involves seducing a beautiful woman, in an exotic location (in this case, the ex-Miss France Claudine Auger, in Nassau, Bahamas). Can Bond seduce her in time to find the bombs before they are used?

As a general rule, the better the Bond villain, the better the Bond movie - and so it proves in this case. Adolfo Celi plays the villain efficiently enough, without being truly inspired. He comes across as a well paid hired hand, rather than an egomaniacal adversary. The villainess, on the other hand, the sexy redhead played by Luciana Paluzzi, comes across as a much more sophisticated foil for Bond's charms and wit, with a genuine sense of menace.

Another plus for the movie is the photography. On every level it is superior to its predecessors - filmed for the first time in widescreen, Ken Adams outlandish sets have room to breathe for the first time, and the groundbreaking underwater photography is surprisingly (forgive me) fluid and clear. In fact, the underwater scenes are the true draw of the movie, adding a new dimension to Bond's skills - however, they also prove to be the movies drawback, as they are drawn out far too long in the climactic underwater battle. The movie is going swimmingly (apologies again..) until the very final scene on board the yacht which jettisons its cocoon to become a hydrofoil. This has been so ludicrously speeded up for dramatic effect, that it has the opposite effect, losing the dramatic tension and spoiling the moment.

So to summarise, with a bit of trimming and more careful use of speeded up action scenes, this could have been a 5 star classic, as it is, it is still a very respectable and enjoyable entry into the Bond franchise, with Connery at his peak.

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