Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Guy Hamilton
Written by: Richard Maibaum & Paul Dehn
(based on the novel GOLDFINGER by Ian Fleming)
Starring: Sean Connery, Honor Blackman, Gert Frobe, Shirley Eaton, Harold Sakata, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn & Lois Maxwell
The third Bond film in the franchise and the second of eleven that I plan on reviewing (in lieu of the upcoming SPECTRE), GOLDFINGER serves as the film that really perfected the Bond formula. As enjoyable and influential as DR. NO is, it also has a few kinks in its gears. For example, the title villain was underutilized and Bond wasn’t exactly given a vast range of ridiculous gadgets to use. Neither of those things is an issue in GOLDFINGER, because this might hold up as one of my favorite Bond films by the time I’m done with these retrospective reviews. Opening with a solid first scene, stylized credits and a catchy theme, GOLDFINGER starts off strong and keeps that momentum going throughout the whole film.
James Bond (a.k.a. 007) has just successfully completed a mission and is relaxing in a Miami hotel. It turns out that there were ulterior motives for Bond taking a vacation in Florida. MI6 has instructed Bond to keep an eye on another hotel guest, the robust Auric Goldfinger. What begins as a simple assignment quickly turns personal when Goldfinger kills a woman whom Bond took to bed. 007 makes it his mission to take down Goldfinger and thwart his insane secret plot, but this will be difficult when the baddie has a high-powered laser and an unstoppable Korean bodyguard (Oddjob). Bond’s only hopes come in high-tech gadgets, his own ingenuity and seduction powers that seemed rendered useless on the risqué-named Pussy Galore.
Sean Connery slips into the skin of Bond with expected style and panache. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot you can say about his performance other than he’s Bond. I’m not able to separate him from the character and that’s a good thing. The main draw for GOLDFINGER are the side characters. Auric Goldfinger may go down as one of the greatest Bond villains ever. Instead of making stupid mistakes that stereotypical Bond villains usually make (e.g. escapable traps and not sticking around to watch Bond die), Goldfinger has the balls to actually try to casually kill Bond with an inescapable trap…which leads to a tense conversation as Bond tries to plead for his life in a roundabout way. Oddjob is a Korean thug who uses his steel-rimmed hat to kill targets. It’s an idea that’s so silly that it works and leads to a memorable showdown between Bond and the hat-wielding thug. The only real female character comes in Pussy Galore. Yes, Bond is still a chauvinistic pig, but this is also poked fun at in his conversations with Pussy.
I think the main quality that makes this Bond film stand out is that it has a great sense of humor. It had established certain clichés at this point (including the “Bond, James Bond” line) and began poking at them in this third film. When 007 begins to introduce himself to a disgruntled female driver, she cuts him off and doesn’t let him finish his famous introduction. It’s a nice little wink and nudge towards the viewer that made me laugh. The film is also loaded with a ridiculous entertainment factor that primarily focuses on being fun, rather than being dark or intense. Goldfinger’s ultimate plan is silly, to say the least, but still fits perfectly within the context of this hugely enjoyable spy movie. It certainly helps that GOLDFINGER is fast paced from beginning to end, leaving little room for the movie to drag or become weighed down by exposition.
Ultimately, I imagine GOLDFINGER will wind up as one of my very favorite Bond movies. It definitely knows the kind of film it is (like DR. NO) and fully embraces that in the best ways possible. Certain spy movie clichés (insane gadgets) are still being introduced in this third Bond entry. Others (diabolical villains with insane plots) are being expanded upon. Well-known clichés of the Bond series are also being poked at in funny ways. All in all, I has a complete blast watching GOLDFINGER and highly recommend it as one of the best early action movies of its type.