Thunderball is real boring. The problem is two-fold. First, the opening is heavy. After the pre-title bit (which is goofy with the jetpack), it’s a pseudo-Hitchcock, with Connery off in a spa. He sees strange things going on and gradually romances his masseuse. Intercut with these scenes are the bad guys preparing to do their bad things. Terence Young’s a fantastic director–even when Thunderball is sleep-inducing–so all of these scenes, especially the ones in the spa, look great. They’re just not going anywhere.
When the movie finally starts–the spa adventures almost feels like a short story glued on to a three-act narrative–it’s mostly Connery romancing again. This time it’s Claudine Auger, who’s not very good. Luciana Paluzzi is far better as the bad girl. Adolfo Celi’s eye-patched villain is weak as well. The Bond regulars sparsely show up and Desmond Llewelyn’s scene is practically in the second half and is, of course, excellent, so it makes up for a lot.
But the other, far more damning problem, is the conclusion. It features a too silly for Bond closer and a missing scientist (the movie forgets about him). But those aspects aren’t really too influential. The end fails because, after making the viewer sit through a fifteen minute water ballet slash fight scene, all Young’s got for a conclusion is a speeding boat. Except the boat’s only speeding through sped up film. Thunderball uses the technique, which looks terrible, quite a few times… but the entire ending is running double-speed and it’s atrocious.
Then the end comes and ruins what would otherwise have been a boring but competent Bond outing.
Connery’s got some great one-liners in here, but most of them come at ludicrous plot points. For example, he’s got some witty line after he harpoons a bad guy to a tree. Auger’s not at all surprised (or horrified), which seems unlikely, since her character is supposed to be naive innocent.
One real interesting thing Thunderball does–and gets an incomplete on–is give Bond a team to work with. They’re only in a few scenes, but it’s interesting to see him work with other people. They should have been in a lot more.
Directed by Terence Young; screenplay by Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, based on a screenplay by Jack Whittingham and a story by Kevin McClory, Whittingham and Ian Fleming; director of photography, Ted Moore; edited by Peter R. Hunt; music by John Barry; production designer, Ken Adam; produced by McClory, Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman; released by United Artists.
Starring Sean Connery (James Bond), Claudine Auger (Domino), Adolfo Celi (Emilio Largo), Luciana Paluzzi (Fiona Volpe), Rik Van Nutter (Felix Leiter), Guy Doleman (Count Lippe), Molly Peters (Patricia Fearing), Martine Beswick (Paula Caplan), Bernard Lee (M), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny), Roland Culver (Foreign Secretary), Earl Cameron (Pinder) and Paul Stassino (Major Francois Derval).