Another day, another Bond escapade.
This time around SPECTRE has cooked up an audacious plan, upping the ante from Doc No’s mere fiddling with guidance systems to outright stealing of a couple of thermonuclear bombs. With one of their operatives undertaking extensive plastic surgery to infiltrate a NATO training flight, making off with a Vulcan bomber and swiping what would, given the timeframe, probably be a “Blue Steel” nuclear bomb. This is a weapon only matched in potency by Derek Zoolander’s Blue Steel “look”.
With the boomy-type things now in the hands of SPECTRE No. 2 Emilo Largo, a demand is issued to, well, NATO, I assume, but this takes a particularly Brit-centric look at the issue, for One Hundred Million Pounds Sterling. Which isn’t far off the eventual worldwide take of the film, according to IMDB, so in a way the plan pays for itself. Actually, given that the bomber has to be landed on a retractable, submersible landing strip, in addition to the expensive plastic surgery, I suspect that most of the blackmail money would go straight back towards paying for the equipment used in the endeavour.
With everyone on the hunt for the bombs, but with no clue as to where they are, it’s indeed fortunate that James just happens to have been relaxing off-duty at the same spa as the SPECTRE agents preparing for their mission. Massively, ridiculously, unbelievably fortunate. At any rate, this leads Bond to the Bahamas on the trail of Largo, as he attempts to sniff out the location of the stolen Vulcan and its deadly payload.
Sean Connery has, as it turns out erroneously, had Thunderball ascribed as his favourite Bond, but that nothwithstanding I’m sure he has fond memories of filming it. I’m sure the Bahamas isn’t a bad place to go on location. By this point he’s clearly massively comfortable in his role and for the time, it had some innovative (and SFX Oscar winning) action set-pieces.
The problem in Space Year 2011 is that “for the time” statement. There can’t have been an awful lot of underwater filming, well, without any disclaimers, really, but certainly not in the arena of mainstream action movies. On a technical and novelty level, you can see why the film doubles down on it.
However, just as with the current infatuation with 3D filming, the gimmick frequently gets in the way of the story rather than supporting it. Putting your main characters in situations where they can’t talk, due to the breathing apparatus, falls somewhere between brave and foolhardy. Putting entire action sequences underwater is boneheaded. As anyone who has been in water at some point in their life will attest to, fast and fluid motion isn’t the medium’s forte. Hence the climactic action sequences that want desperately to be pitched underwater battles become, essentially, wetsuit clad men hugging each other with the occasional harpoon dart penetrating them. Ooh-er, missus.
I don’t have much issue with the rest of the film, but so much of this film’s impact is gambled on the underwater action that it undermines the otherwise solid framework of the film.
Connery is effortlessly portraying Bond by this point, and is a joy to watch in the role. I’m not so fond of Adolfo Celi’s Largo, who appears to have mistaken ‘characterisation’ for ‘wearing an eyepatch’. He’s as hampered by the underwater nature of a lot of the film as Bond is, and only in one scene does he ever get a chance to exude menace, far towards the end of the film by which point the damage has already been done.
While the plot has increased the stakes to nuclear threats against cities rather than government gold facilities, there’s it doesn’t translate into any extra dramatic tension. While it’s far from the most disappointing Bond film in the series, it’s certainly the first one we’ve spoken about in this ill-advised experiment.
Still, bonus points for featuring Bond girl Domino getting a tow from a turtle, an act which is substantially less perverted than it sounds.