Thunderball is everything one would expect from classic James Bond as there are enough beautiful women, gadgets, and action for everyone. However, the film as it stands today is a bit drawn out and lacks the intensity of some other Bond films, such as Goldfinger or Dr. No.
While these points are certainly the heart and soul of any classic James Bond adventure there are holes in this particular boat which sometimes make it feel a but dead in the water.
The film was one of Sean Connery's favorite Bond films to work on as well as being a critical success, with Thunderball easily overtaking the worldwide cinema totals of the first two James Bond films.
While the film is a decent entry in the James Bond film library in terms of ideas and set pieces, it is hurt by the dragging nature of some of the dialogue scenes and the revelation of some major plot points. A big distraction was how long it took for the film to really get going, a more important aspect of a great feature film today than it would have been in 1965. Now the film has to compete with the breakneck pace and speed of the modern action movie, as well as the short attention spans of the internet and cable TV era.
Usually, this would be a boon rather than a minor flaw, as today's action films seem to rattle the cinema goers senses with huge and random explosions, improbable action sequences and over dramatic slow motion shots when a bit more back building of the characters might seem in order through actual dialogue. It helps us understand the motivations and psyche of our heroes and our villains better and makes for a deeper film.
Thunderball did feature some excellent underwater filming, with shots that were breathtaking and well done, especially for their time. These sequences are both a blessing and a curse as they are wonderful in execution but like some of the dialogue sequences, go on for far too long. Surely this is partially due to the expense put into the shots as well as the fact that the production team knew they had something special on their hands. However, in this case, less would have truly been more.
Another scene of interest for Bond and film buffs alike is the sequence when James Bond is thrown into Largo's pool along with a bunch of hungry sharks. Connery was not too pleased with the scene, to begin with, and insisted that a plexiglass barrier is installed into the pool for the scenes. Ultimately, despite the safety precautions, one of the sharks got around the barrier and Connery had to get out of the water fast before he was attacked.
To be sure, this film shines when it comes to locations, design and cinematographic work, but fall s a bit short when trying to keep a viewer engaged over the two plus hours it is on screen.
This is not the worst James Bond film in the last fifty years by far, but neither is it the best of the titles either. All in all, this is an enjoyable film with some great cinematography, great locations, and some great acting. It is just a shame it goes on for about forty-five minutes too long.