How do you write a review for what many consider the quintessential James Bond movie. It is considered the king of the Connery flicks (and for many the best James Bond film ever made). It is the very definition of iconic. So really, should I spend any time going over what everyone else already knows? Of course I will! I’m going to write reviews for every Bond movie. Besides, I think it’s time to scrape off some of that gold paint and see a bit of the tarnish underneath. Oh yeah… I’m going there.
British super agent James Bond (Sean Connery) is just trying to enjoy some relaxation in Miami when his superior M (Bernard Lee) gives him a new assignment. Bond is to observe Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) a wealthy industrialist who they suspect is in the gold smuggling business. Bond quickly gets on Goldfinger’s bad side when he seduces Goldfinger’s pretty assistant Jill (Shirley Eaton). Before you can say “most famous film image of the 1960s”, Jill is covered in gold paint and Bond Is standing over her lifeless body.
Well Bond isn’t going to take this lying down. He goes after Goldfinger and soon uncovers a diabolical scheme to raid Fort Knox! With some help from the pretty Tilly (Tania Mallet) and a super car, Bond attempts to stop the plot. But against him are Goldfinger’s dangerous agents, Oddjob (Harold Sakata) and Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman). Does Bond have any hope of bringing Goldfinger to justice?
- Hits all the key elements that you expect in a James Bond film
- Honor Blackman is alluring in her role
- The Astin Martin nearly steals the show
- Drops the serious thrills in favor of silly spectacle
- Bond spends the second half of the movie hanging out
- The script could have used a few more passes
The James Bond series hits the formula in this film, and it would inspire many of the sequels as well as countless imitators. It’s a fun flick, but a long way from the edgy thrillers leading up to this film. The script has plenty of loose threads and random moments. While I don’t hold this is a high point, it’s a perfectly average outing for 007.
Scores (out of 5)
In Depth Review
|It was the kiss of death, from Mr. Goldfinger.|
Because of all that, it’s really hard to look at the film objectively, or in comparison to the other James Bond films around it. The Bond series is very much a snapshot of popular culture. With this film – Bond became popular culture, and held that position for the next couple movies. I think that is why so many people connected with it, and with Sean Connery as their James Bond.
But that doesn’t mean only people who caught Goldfinger in theaters are the big fans. I’ve met plenty of people my age and younger who adore the film. Most of the time, it is their first exposure to James Bond and it becomes a kind of keystone for them. All other Bond films are measured against it.
But I believe that as entertaining as the film is, it isn’t the best James Bond film, or even the best Sean Connery film, or even the best Bond film of the 1960s. It lies solidly in the middle of the pack.
|No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.|
This leads into the camerawork in the film. Goldfinger has so many memorable visuals in it, and that goes in large part to Ted Moore’s cinematography and framing. The golden girl draped across the bed is immediately stamped into our minds. The low angle, the lighting plays up the beauty and horror of the scene. I already mentioned the laser scene, but the high angle for the establishing shots, not to mention the close ups on the laser and it’s progress are striking. The entire finale sequence at Fort Knox includes many visual highlights. Strangely enough, whenever I think of this film, my mind goes right to the aerial photography of Pussy’s pilots flying over the military base around the fort. Combined with John Barry’s brassy score, this moment always stands out. Finally you have the framing of the battle around and inside the fort, with the camera capturing the scope of Adam’s sets as well as the action in front of us.
|Operation Grand Slam has nothing to do with Denny's.|
From an acting standpoint, you’ve got a solid cast. Connery seems to be having a good time in the role, comfortable with the character and the lighter tone of the film. I think he’s a bit better in Thunderball, because the role is a bit meatier. Matching him is Honor Blackman as Pussy. I love her tough gal performance. She doesn’t take any flack from Bond and seems to be a perfect match for him. Of course she has to melt in his arms by the end, but while she’s his foil, she does a great job. Gert Frobe is a bit tougher to judge. He was dubbed over and so you have to judge his physical presence more than anything else. He’s got the sinister, confident and jovial villain down pat. It was such a memorable performance that it would be cloned in many imitations (and even a few sequels).
|Silent henchmen and caddy, Oddjob does it all.|
Where Golfinger ends up falling a bit short is in the script. And that’s not to say the actual dialogue itself. There are plenty of classic lines from this film, and many that have become some of the most beloved lines in the James Bond canon. No I’m talking about the way story is constructed and executed.
With the focus firmly on getting Bond into and out of scrapes, this allowed the writing team to come up with the first full pre-credit sequence. Unlike the one from the previous film, Goldfinger’s pre-credit sequence acts like a short Bond film. It gives us everything we could want, and sets the tone of the film. There’s action, explosions, a hot girl, Bond acting suave and Bond with a seagull on his head. It even ends with a classic post kill quip.
I got to admit this was a great way to start the movie. Once the movie proper kicks in, the first hour or so is actually handled fairly well. The introduction to Goldfinger is classic. I love how Bond outmaneuvers him in the card game, and then again during the golf game. Once he gets into the Goldfinger’s refinery and we get the great car chase, it seems like the movie is shaping up well.
|Settle in James, you'll be stuck here a long time.|
The weakest bit of writing in Goldfinger comes during the scene where our villain gathers all the mob bosses together, tells them his entire plot and then kills them. If he was just planning on killing them, why bother to tell them his plot? You can write it off as his ego forcing him to gloat. But it’s just bad screenwriting. The scene only exists to allow Bond to hear the plot and then get the word to Felix. There had to be a better way to get that information. Instead we get a fairly messy scene that leads to another pointless (but cool scene) of Oddjob getting rid of the last gangster, ironically named Solo (Martin Benson).
|The Bond vs. Oddjob battle is a classic.|
The second hour of the film always annoys me. It’s too messy and lacks momentum. The thing is, it fits the more cartoony and breezy tone that Hamilton wanted. You aren’t supposed to think about the movie that hard, just enjoy the ride. And most folks do.
|"You've been a very naughty screenwriter."|
But at the same time Goldfinger was the first of it’s kind of film. Even more than Dr. No it is really the beginning of the James Bond legacy, and so it deserves that distinction and everything that goes with it. But I feel that I can’t be called the best of the best.