Well, another week has come and gone and here we are once more with our next installment of “007(x3) Weeks of 007.” This is the fourth week and that makes it time to talk about Sean Connery’s fourth outing as the legendary secret agent.
There is just so much that I could talk about with “Thunderball,” but I’m not really going to delve into the whole Kevin McClory thing, the lawsuits, “Never Say Never Again,” and “Warhead 2000.” It isn’t that those things don’t interest me, it’s just that any real, worthwhile, discussion of that requires a whole lot of time and space and has been done before. These is meant to be what strikes me about the movie and not just a rehash of the events surrounding its production.
Still though, it is difficult to separate “Thunderball” from those events and watching the movie last night has prompted me to go out in search of a book on the subject. I don’t have one in hand yet, but I’m on the hunt.
For me, one of the amazing things about “Thunderball” is that it was released in 1965, with “Goldfinger” having come in 1964, “From Russia with Love” in ’63, and “Dr. No” in ’62. That is four movies in four years and something that would never happen today. It was a different time, but the toll that has to take is still pretty high. If I was Connery, I don’t know how many more I’d want to do after that (do note, he did one more before he left the role for the first time).
One of the other spectacular things, and something that would be done in exceptionally different fashion today, is all the underwater moments here. “Thunderball” features several extended underwater, wordless, sequences. Sure, there are hand gestures and some sound effects, but except for the score, these are largely silent portions of the film. The biggest action sequence in the film, the main fight at the end, is entirely underwater. The thing is, in this age of ludicrously fast cuts that don’t allow you to see what’s going on, the “Thunderball” underwater sequences, which are much more slowly paced, still are utterly captivating. It is this gorgeous, deadly, underwater ballet.
“Thunderball” also offers up one of the most memorable Q-gadgets of any Bond film – the jetpack Bond uses to escape in the pre-title sequence. That jetpack is a real thing which actually works, but it looks just as futuristic and fantastic today as it must have 50 years ago.
One thing has struck me with all of the films to this point is that there is always a scene where Moneypenny and/or Bond get scolded by M for their back and forth. M has repeatedly told them to cut the usual shenanigans and let Bond get to work on his insanely important task. Just once—just once—I would love to see the usual shenanigans go to whatever their logical ending might be. How does Bond extricate himself from these situations when M isn’t there to shove him out of the office?
As the world of the Bond films has grown through the years, the speculation grows about the structure of MI6 in the Bond universe. One theory, to which I do not subscribe, suggests that James Bond is just a pseudonym taken by anyone who has the 007 number assigned to him, that the various actors are all playing different Bonds. Truthfully, I don’t just “not subscribe” to that notion, I vehemently reject it.
We will, when we get to Brosnan and Craig, have to have a discussion about some of the wonkiness of the timeline, but for me they have to all be the same guy. Looking for perfect continuity may be fun, but it doesn’t exist and these are just movies anyway so what, exactly, is the point? You end up doing the sort of backflips scientists had to do to account for the movement of planets and stars when they argued that the Earth was at the center of the solar system.
But, I bring this up because there’s a scene in “Thunderball” where all the Double-0s are in the same room as they get their assignment. We don’t see them all but there are nine chairs set out and Bond is the last to arrive and takes the one third from the end, indicating that they are sitting in number order from Double-0 One to Double-0 Nine. I love that moment, and I love it coming soon on the heels of Bond talking about how Jacques Bouvar killed two of Bond’s coworkers. I assume Bouvar eliminated Double-0s and they were replaced, but maybe not. It is just this hint of how the Double-0 world works, this brief glimpse into the world, and I love it.
We are running a little long here so just one more thought on the Jacques Bouvar funeral that opens the movie. It is pointed out to Bond that the initials are the same and Bond learns that Bouvar has faked his own death. It feels like a foreshadowing of the events of “You Only Live Twice,” and I look forward when rewatching that film to see if they have any references back to the Bouvar funeral here. It just feels too perfect for their not to be.
Even if it doesn’t say it at the end of the “Thunderball” credits I will here, “007(x3) Weeks of 007” will return with “You Only Live Twice.”
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment