Thunderball ★★★★½

Two of my favorite things in life are beautiful women and sharks; Thunderball has both in high supply. Not the best Bond, but historically my favorite, Thunderball overcomes a plodding pace and a so-so plot by serving up some of the coolest sequences in the entire series. The extended underwater action ballet that closes out the movie is a more ambitious, better choreographed action sequence than you're likelier to find in any studio movie made in the last decade not called Mission Impossible. Connery swimming for his life in a pool full of real sharks is as delightful to me as it was terrifying for him. What really makes Thunderball stand out in my mind, however, is its women: Luciana Paluzzi's deadly redheaded femme fatale Fiona Volpe and Claudine Auger's Domino. Auger is, for my money, the most beautiful Bond girl in series history (I was so taken with her as a youngster that I, embarrassingly, wrote to her for an autograph; she did not respond). Over the course of the movie's admittedly lengthy running time, Domino models a half dozen eye-popping swimsuits, which Auger herself helped design. Moreover, Domino is the first Bond girl to boast a real narrative arc of her own. SPOILER ALERT: in the end, it's Domino who frees herself from her gilded cage, exacting her revenge on Largo and saving Bond in the process. Speaking of Largo, he's not a particularly memorable villain, but I have to give him credit: dude is Blofeld's number two in SPECTRE and still he suits up alongside the henchmen to do the grunt work. That's solidarity.

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