Thunderball (1965) Directed by Terence Young. With Sean Connery, Claudine Auger, Adolfo Celi, Luciana Paluzzi, Bernard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Rik Van Nutter.
Original director, Terence Young, returns for this fourth adventure of the resourceful British secret agent, James Bond. Based on an Ian Fleming novel of the same name, Thunderball is perhaps notable for being the least exhilarating of the series, thus far.
With an impressive tally of four films released in as many years, this latest offering plays as a lazy retread of many plot devices and characters we’ve encountered in the previous films. Seen outside the context of the first three, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, none of this matters, but seen in chronological order, the over-familiarity starts to render large sections of the film surprisingly dull.
Sean Connery slips back in to the tuxedo as Bond, further building his character’s reputation as a suave, debonair, sexual harassment case waiting to happen. Also returning, is a plot line developed in From Russia with Love, involving the ominous SPECTRE organisation, once again led by the mysterious, Persian cat stroking, ‘Number One’.
Thunderball doesn’t completely rest on its laurels, although it leans pretty heavily, at times. Things begin promisingly, though. After Tom Jones’ full-blooded rendition of the theme song, which reaches for the same grand impact of Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger, there lies an inherent assuredness. Sadly though, the plot seems to take forever to get going, and the film becomes less and less interesting as it makes a point of hoop-jumping through all the clichés established in the earlier films. Briefing scene, ‘Moneypenny’ flirtations, meeting the Bond girls, meeting the bad-guys, ‘Q’ scene etc…etc… All this repetition would be okay, if only it were dressing for a more engaging adventure.
The director should take credit for showing ambition in lensing large sections of action underwater, although it is often hard to see what’s going on. What’s really wrong with Thunderball though, is that the fun is starting to become a little stretched. As a standalone adventure, it’s functional, but not a great deal more. Connery still has the twinkle in his eye, but the film might be best remembered for a few small moments, rather than as a cohesively entertaining whole. 2.5/5