Thunderball Review


Going into watching Thunderball, all I could remember is it’s “the one with all the underwater bits in it”, and, well… that about sums it up! There are some good scenes, don’t get me wrong, but there sure is a lot of slow underwater bits… Let’s take a closer look!


James Bond’s latest mission is to find two NATO atomic bombs stolen by SPECTRE, which holds the world to ransom for £100 million in diamonds, in exchange for not destroying an unspecified major city in either England or the United States. The search leads Bond to the Bahamas, where he encounters Emilio Largo, the card-playing, eye patch-wearing SPECTRE Number Two…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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Bond in water! … Get used to it…

James Bond (Sean Connery) – Smooth talking and deadly 00 agent for MI6, James Bond actually falls into this assignment by accident, though that doesn’t stop him from getting the job done!

Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi) – Ranked number 2 is the deadly criminal organisation known as SPECTRE. His plan to capture 2 nukes and then ransom the top governments of the world very nearly succeeds, which is pretty impressive really… Most villains don’t get that far…

Domino Derval (Claudine Auger) – The mistress of Largo, she is under the impression that her brother is on a mission safe and sound, unaware that Emilio saw to his death…

Fiona Volpe (Luciana Paluzzi) – A SPECTRE agent who ends up joining Emilio on his mission, and along with her men, actually injures James Bond in a gun fight! Unthinkable!

Q (Desmond Llewelyn) – The MI6’s “Quatermaster” who gives Bond his many gadgets that will always come in handy…

Plus many more!

The Good:

Thunderball 2

Look, Bond underwater again!

Once again Connery is great as James Bond, this time he’s still unpleasantly forceful with women, but he’s also far more vulnerable himself. He gets caught in the trap in the spa in the opening scene, being trapped on a weird… exercise machine thing, and later in the film he gets shot in the calf and has to tie it up and stop the bleeding which is leading his pursuers to him. Hell, even in the final fight, it’s Domino that saves Bond from being defeated by Emilio! It’s actually quite refreshing, really.

Speaking of Mr. Largo, he and the rest of SPECTRE are brilliant here. The now parodied-to-death scene with the large table and a still hidden Blofeld killing a betrayer by having his chair vanish into flames is really fun, it’s cheesy and silly, but you still get a good sense of this big organisation that even Bond, and indeed the viewer, still hasn’t gotten to the top of. Emilio, eye patch and all, is a good villain, and SPECTRE agent Fiona is also great. You expect her to fall for some sort of advance from Bond, but nope! She actually wounds him, follows him, and surrounds him, ready for the kill. Even her death is well played, Bond turning her to take the bullet then legging it.

The actual underwater mass-fight towards the end of the film I don’t actually mind. It’s unique and somewhat surreal to watch, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large-scale underwater “battle” since, either, so the scene still holds some value.

I enjoyed the scene with all the 00 agents gathering together to hear the crisis and get their assignments, even though the room was almost comically too big…

I also liked Domino as a “Bond girl”, she at least got to do something brave, but without repeating the Pussy Galore villain betrayal story from Goldfinger.

The Bad:

Thunderball 4

Before villains with eye patches were cliché!

While I appreciate the underwater battle at the end, I do not appreciate the scene where the villains are retrieving the two nukes from the downed plane. It goes on for what seems like half an hour, slowly diving to the plane, slowly taking the nukes out of the plane, slowly covering the plane in camouflage… It’s a long scene…

The idea that Bond happened to be getting a mandatory assessment at the same clinic someone who was about to commit an international crime was getting his plans started is a little too convenient for me… Not to mention the agent in question tries to hold up SPECTRE for more money, and is then told “Fine, do the job and you’ll be paid more afterwards”… and he agrees! What an idiot! Was he really surprised to be killed after the job was complete?

The jetpack escape sequence at the start of the film was fun, but out of place… it soon won’t be, of course, but in terms of Thunderball it just feels… wrong.

Overall Thoughts:

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A jetpack in the 60s?! But how come I can’t get one now in 2017?

Thunderball sometimes gets a bad rep for being boring, and I can see some validity in that criticism. There are parts of the film that go on way too long, especially the nuke grabbing scene, so I certainly appreciate the comment, but I still enjoyed myself over the two hours. It’s not an out and out classic like Goldfinger, but it’s still fun. It’ll be a long time until I watch it again, mind you. It doesn’t have the rewatchable charm as some of the other older Bond films, so there is something to saying this is a film firmly in the middle of the spectrum…

3 Star Watch

One thought on “Thunderball Review

  1. Benjamin Fastnedge August 17, 2017 / 1:10 pm

    Thunder on blu-ray looks superb. The underwater sequences come to life and the film feels much more vibrant. This review is well constructed though and some valid points raised, it remains one of my favourite James Bond films.


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