Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Goldfinger (1964)

Director: Guy Hamilton
Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Harry Saltzman
Writers: Richard Maibuam, Paul Dehn
Cinematographer: Ted Moore
Editor: Peter R. Hunt
Composer: John Barry
Theme Song: "Goldfinger" by Shirley Bassey
James Bond (Sean Connery) is on vacation in Miami Beach when he is approached by Felix Leiter (Cec Linder), with a new mission from MI6; to investigate Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), an aptly-named gold magnate, whom both MI6 and the CIA suspect is an international gold smuggler.
Tasked with finding out how Goldfinger smuggles his gold from country to country, Bond follows him to Switzerland, where he is taken captive by Goldfinger's henchman Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and personal pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Stripped of his weapons and cut off from Felix and M (Bernard Lee), Bond must rely on his wits and charm to foil Goldfinger's ultimate plan: to irradiate the entire gold supply at Fort Knox and bring economic chaos to the West.
The film that made James Bond a box-office sensation, Goldfinger is the point in the series where
reality ceases to exist. From this point on, the series is camp fantasy, filled with sexual innuendos and kitschy humor. But those looking for a great, thrilling spy film will no doubt have issues with this third Bond film, for the suspense is non-existent; as diabolical as Goldfinger's plot is, the lighter tone robs it of any sense of menace or danger. Furthermore, the action is surprisingly tamped down, with only three fights, two chases and the big shootout at Fort Knox, most of which is merely adequate.
Despite these flaws, Goldfinger, like most Bond films, is not about chair-gripping tension, but about having fun and that's exactly what Guy Hamilton delivers. From beginning to end, this film is a crazy good time and endlessly re-watchable and a lot of the credit goes to the classy sense of humor, which despite the sexual innuendos never becomes lowbrow or unsophisticated. In addition, Hamilton delivers a stylish, colorful film with striking imagery and classic sets, while Maibaum and Dehn's script keeps the story going at a rapid pace, introduces such classic Bond motifs as the Vodka Martini and the Aston Martin and develops amusing relationships between Bond and his enemies.
As far as the villains go, all three continue to cast a large shadow over the rest of the series. Gert Frobe gives Goldfinger a winning balance of gleeful intelligence and sinister presence, despite not being much of a physical challenge for Bond. Honor Blackman, best known as Cathy Gale from the '60s spy show The Avengers, is a rarity in the Bond series; an assertive, powerful woman who stands on her own, though she does eventually succumb to Bond's charms. Then there's Harold Sakata, whose physicality and presence make Oddjob easily one of Bond's toughest physical foes, yet he's also charming and amusing despite having no dialogue.
As for Sean Connery, he's more charming than ever as 007, but he's let down by the script. In keeping with the lighter tone, this Bond smirks and jokes his way through the film, but doesn't come off as dangerous as he did in From Russia With Love. The balance between suave charmer and deadly killer is off, resulting in a weaker Bond that relies more on sex appeal and charisma than skill and intellect. It doesn't help that Bond spends a good portion of the film in captivity and save for his romancing of Pussy, doesn't achieve anything during this portion of the film. Fortunately, a great performance by Connery keeps the character fun to watch and his delivery of the signature quips is still amusing.
As beloved as it is, Goldfinger doesn't quite live up to its reputation as THE Bond film; the campy tone curtails what could've been a frightening plot and Bond himself is neutered. But despite the lack of substance and action, Guy Hamilton makes this third Bond film insanely fun, with sophisticated humor, awesome gadgets, engaging performances, and some of the most iconic characters and set pieces of the franchise. Though it falls just short of greatness, Goldfinger is easily one of the high points of the series.

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