Saturday, April 6, 2013

Iconic, But Not Incredible, Goldfinger Is Still Fun!

The Good: Decent plot, Cool gadgets, Decent direction
The Bad: No real character development
The Basics: Arguably the most memorable James Bond film, Goldfinger has James Bond working to thwart a villain obsessed with acquiring gold and menacing the world economy!

There are any number of films that I saw when I was a child and now, as an adult, I am finally getting around to rewatch for my own enjoyment and review. Today, my wife and I took in Goldfinger and it has been over two decades since I saw it. For a change, my wife sat through a James Bond film, though I think it had more to do with her love of the song "Goldfinger," which she was familiar with from Frasier. In fact, she kept grimacing as Dame Shirley Bassey performed it at the outset of Goldfinger, saying, "I wish Kelsey was singing this!" I was amused to see her smiling and recalling references from Goldfinger in other things we have seen. In fact, Goldfinger might well be the most-alluded to James Bond film in the franchise.

And it's good . . . but not great.

Goldfinger is an entertaining film and one that is worth watching, but it suffers from many of the issues that came from later James Bond films (and the derivative action films that replicated the Bond films' successful patterns). Truth be told, this is probably the last James Bond film where they are establishing the patterns of the franchise and cannot be expected to defy those patterns yet. Goldfinger manages to use many of what would later become the patterns and conceits of the genre: Bond gets his gadgets, meets a villain who tells him his plans in such a way that allows Bond to ultimately defeat him, and multiple women, some who betray James Bond and at least two he has pretty passionless sex with.

After destroying a heroin shipment, James Bond escapes to Miami Beach where he meets with Felix and hooks up with Jill Masterson. Jill is working for the criminal that Felix sends Bond to disrupt, Auric Goldfinger. After forcing Goldfinger to lose in his crooked card game, Bond beds Jill and is knocked out by Goldfinger's henchman, Odd Job. He awakens to find Jill gruesomely murdered and he is recalled to MI-6 where he is assigned to track and professionally meet Goldfinger. In Europe, Bond meets Goldfinger for a leisurely game of golf, where Goldfinger and Odd Job try to cheat. Bond manages to entice Goldfinger with a brick of Nazi gold and he wins a bet against Goldfinger.

Tracking Goldfinger, Bond is menaced by Jill's sister, who soon ends up a victim of Odd Job herself. Captured by Odd Job and Goldfinger - and his pilot Pussy Galore (who has trained a whole flight team of her own) - James Bond bargains for his life and Goldfinger keeps him alive, against his better judgment. In Goldfinger's prison, Bond learns of Goldfinger's plan to break into Fort Knox. Determined to let the CIA know of Goldfinger's plans, Bond tries to contact Felix to save lives and stop Goldfinger from disrupting the world economy.

Goldfinger has, easily, the very coolest car in the history of cinema. In addition to the Spartacus-like device that takes out Tilly's tires, Bond's car is bulletproof, has machine guns under the lights, deploys a smoke screen, oil slick, and has an ejector seat! What is also cool in Goldfinger is how the villain also has some pretty cool gadgets. Goldfinger meets with his thugs and he uses some pretty (for the time) neat devices.

As well, Goldfinger has a pretty engaging plot. Goldfinger is an interesting villain who has a pretty cool plan. In fact, Gert Frobe plays Goldfinger with such an intelligence and conviction that it seems cheap when Connery's James Bond declares Goldfinger "mad." One of the most-parodied moments in Goldfinger, "I expect you to die!" is actually delivered by Frobe with a simple sincerity that is far more credible and grounded than one might expect.

Connery is good as Bond, though James Bond does not grow or develop at all in the film. Instead, like most James Bond films, Goldfinger suffers some because James Bond is concerned with staying alive and the villain's plot machinations than any sort of personal growth. Bond begins and ends as a resourceful - there's a good moment with a fan and a bathtub in the teaser -, clever, and strangely dispassionate wisecracking super-spy. Connery plays off Honor Blackman's Pussy Galore (who manages to say her character's name without cracking up) very well and Harold Sakata is cold and menacing in every frame as Odd Job.

On DVD and Blu-Ray, Goldfinger comes with two commentary tracks that are very informative and entertaining. There is also an entire disc of bonus featurettes on the making of the film, the gadgets and women of Goldfinger and the way Goldfinger fits into the larger James Bond franchise. Goldfinger is entertaining and well-developed for a film, but it does not make any larger statements on the human condition or develop characters in a way that is truly compelling. Still, it is worth watching and is quite possibly the essential James Bond film.

For other James Bond films, please check out my reviews of:
Dr. No
From Russia With Love
Die Another Day
Casino Royale
Quantum Of Solace


Check out how this movie stocks up against others I have reviewed by visiting my Movie Review Index Page where the reviews are organized from best to worst!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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