Geoff T’s review published on Letterboxd:
Geoff T's James Bond-a-Thon #4
Also known as the underwater Bond film. I noticed Thunderball doesn't get much love around here, but I've always thought it was very underrated. The final instalment to be directed by Terrance Young, the storyline (while not the strongest in the series) engaged me well enough, and I found the heavy emphasis on underwater scenes to be a nice change of pace, along with the location-use and gadgets.
Anyway, SPECTRE is at it yet again, when after Bond takes out Colonel Bouvar in a particularly memorable pre-title sequence, Emilio Largo (now second-in-command of SPECTRE) sets up the theft of two deadly atom bombs that are retrieved in the Bahamas after a NATO flight carrying them is sabotaged. In a most sinister scheme, Largo threatens the destruction of a major UK or US city in exchange for £100 million's worth.
And so as expected, MI6 sends Bond to the Bahamas to meet up with Q and Felix Leiter with the intention of stopping Largo's plans. For the most part, I found Largo to be a fairly strong villain with his eye-patched appearance and sinister and failure-intolerant personality. Largo's beautiful mistress Dominique Derval makes for a decent Bond girl, but she isn't given as much screen time or development as she could of had, though SPECTRE agent Fiona Volpe makes a welcome as the first female henchman in the series.
Scenery-wise, I feel Thunderball is one of the best in the series. Being the first entry in letterbox format, the tropical set-pieces and beautiful underwater photography really shine. The violence is increased a fair bit, with a few cold kills (from both Bond and villains) and a climax where Emilo's goons and the coast guard battle it out with harpoon guns. Music-wise, John Barry delivers his usual brand of good scoring, and the bombastic title song sung by Tom Jones remains one of my favourite 60s Bond themes.
I never understood the dislike for this one at times. It's 60s-era misogynism is hard to overlook and the slow pacing and rapid location-switching does hurt it a little bit, but there's plenty of moments here that I love. I'll even go with the unpopular opinion that it's more enjoyable than Goldfinger in some parts. Easily one of my favourites from the Sean Connery era.