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Film Review: Thunderball

Updated on December 22, 2016
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Review written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.


In 1965, Terence Young directed Thunderball, based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, as the fourth film in the franchise. Starring Sean Connery, Adolfo Celi, Claudine Auger, Luciana Paluzzi, Rik Van Nutter, Bernard Lee, Guy Doleman, Martine Beswick, and Lois Maxwell, the film grossed $141.2 million at the box office


When Bond is sent to a clinic to improve his health, he discovers an unfolding plot to steal two atomic bombs from an Avro Vulcan. The resulting mission brings all 00 agents to Whitehall and Bond finds SPECTRE No. 2, Emilio Largo, demanding 100 million Pounds in flawless uncut diamonds in exchange for the bombs or else a major city will be destroyed.


A decent entry into the franchise, Thunderball gives audiences an interesting and deeper look at SPECTRE. Early on in the film, viewers get to see how the organization really operates with No. 1 (Blofeld) controlling all the operations. Here, it’s shown that in addition to the commanding boss that he was in From Russia with Love, he’s also a commanding manager, getting the information on all of the current schemes the organization is hatching. What's fascinating is that he’s also an intelligent manager, interrogating a henchman on the reasons of a drug trafficking ring turning in poor profits before killing the person that was really embezzling from him. It really bring home the point in the other film that he’s not one to be trifled with but also shows that he’s not stupid enough to just kill someone innocent to make a point to the guilty party. Furthermore, also showcases that failure of all kinds, not just failure to kill 00 agents, will be met with death.

At the same time, the film shows that the agents of SPECTRE aren’t always that bright or don’t always do the smartest things. Bond is sent to the health spa early on in the film where a SPECTRE agent is also taking some time off. The agent sees Bond and thinks that he’s been sent to investigate, so he just tries to kill Bond on his own volition. Had the agent not tried to do so, Bond would never have uncovered any suspicions of the plot and Largo just might have succeeded in his ploy. What this shows is that even though SPECTRE is everywhere and nowhere all at once, some of their agents really don’t have enough brains to check whether or not he’s being spied on. Yet, it could be that the agent knew who Bond was and there had previously been orders to kill him on sight. No matter what, SPECTRE seems to really underestimate Bond’s abilities. The agent tries to get rid of Bond alone despite the spy having a reputation for always succeeding.

Largo as a Bond villain is also notable. Unlike Dr. No and Goldfinger, he doesn’t have any grand, flashy lair. Rather, it’s just a pretty nice yacht with a hydrofoil. Nevertheless, despite being pretty low key, he’s still pretty sadistic, with a shark pool and a reputation for torturing people using a lit cigar and a bucket of ice. Plus, he’s not stupid and can hold his own pretty well, coming so close to killing Bond that had Domino not shot him with a spear gun, he would have succeeded.

Still, the film really does show its age. While in 1965, the underwater battles might have been the best part of the film due to how grand and spectacular it looked, now they just seem slowly paced, over drawn and can get boring kind of fast. This doesn't stop it from being a good film, it just feels like it should get on with the plot.

4 stars for Thunderball

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinions.

Awards won

Academy Awards

  • Best Effects, Special Visual Effects

Golden Screen Awards

  • Golden Screen

Laurel Awards

  • Action Drama
  • Action Performance (Sean Connery)

Nominated for


  • Best British Art Direction (Colour)

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards

  • Best DVD/Blu-Ray Collection (Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection)

Edgar Allan Poe Awards

  • Best Foreign Film

IGN Summer Movie Awards

  • Best Movie Blu-Ray (Bond 50 Box Set)

Golden Satellite Awards

  • Best Classic DVD Release ("The James Bond DVD Collection," volumes 2 & 3)


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    • FatFreddysCat profile image

      Keith Abt 2 years ago from The Garden State

      This and "Goldfinger" are my two favorites of the Connery era. Claudine Auger ("Domino") was one of the hottest Bond Girls ever.

    • Film Frenzy profile image

      Film Frenzy 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

      I stand corrected. Thank you.

    • Robert Sacchi profile image

      Robert Sacchi 2 years ago

      Actually underwater fight scenes weren't new, although they weren't as grand as in Thunderball. There was a WWII era film where U.S. divers were performing demolition work when German divers tried to stop them. I can't think of the name of the movie unfortunately. Thunderball seemed to etch the James Bond formula, set by Goldfinger, in stone. With the climax as a fight between two large groups of combatants rather than 007 taking on an army by himself.