Goldfinger (1964)

Untitled-1Goldfinger proves why Sean Connery is the quintessential James Bond. Everything you need to know about the character is told in this one movie, and Connery plays him as a man who is in full control of the situation, even when he appears not to be. He bides his time and watches his targets carefully from the sidelines, observing their ways and criticizing their methods sarcastically, not directly. He is a full-blooded romancer, and a skilled fighter. He understands his opponent, and chuckles sardonically when he fails. He has also never looked more stylish.

Even at the beginning, when he’s in that obscenely short bathrobe, he looks snazzy. And then later he wears a few suits that 1) are impervious to stains and tears, and 2) make him look the part more than he ever has before. There’s the white tux of the pre-credits scene (famous for being kept ironed and dry under his wetsuit), the grey three-piece that he wears to Goldfinger’s American stable (Daniel Craig wears the blue version of the exact same suit at the end of Casino Royale), and the stunning black one he disposes of Odd Job in. Maybe the suits have been cut differently, or Connery has learnt to carry himself with more confidence.

Goldfinger is not a great Bond movie. It is often careless with details and corny with character relationships and actions. There’s a whole scene in a barnyard that involves Judo and kisses. You might think it’s a strange combination, but when one of the participants is called Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), you’ll be wondering why there aren’t more girls in the barnyard. There are also many sped-up shots. Most of the time such shots are meant to express speed or intensity, as when Bond is driving away from pursuing henchmen and the cars can’t accelerate any faster than the filmmakers would like them to. But there’s a moment early on in the movie where the fast-motion seems out of place and comical.

And then there’s the question of Odd Job’s hat. Odd Job is Goldfinger’s inarticulate Korean employee who’s very good at carrying golf clubs, cheating at golf, driving, fighting, deflecting gold bars off his chest, smiling, and throwing his famous black hat that has the sharpness to slice a statue’s head off but not an actual person’s. I’m sure the physics of this hat can be explained. Maybe it’s all in the wrist. Or the shoulder. Maybe the hat is charmed. Whatever it is, it’s not a weapon that only Odd Job can handle, because Bond also throws it, and if he had hit his mark, Odd Job’s head would’ve been at his feet. Or not.

Why then is Goldfinger commonly ranked as the most important Bond movie? Easy. It’s remembered for its parts, not its whole. And it’s vital to the growth of the Bond franchise. It is the link between the more modest productions of Dr. No and From Russia With Love, and the later big-budget blockbusters like Moonraker and Quantum Of Solace. The plot is deceptively simple, but it’s made to look more complex by its characters, who spend a lot of time chatting and discussing its little details. Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) is the villain, and he’s a good one because he’s able to call Bond’s bluff and go along for the ride that Bond takes him on. “Do you expect me to talk?”, Bond asks while being tied to a death device. “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”. At times we think he has the upper hand, and then Bond has the upper hand. And then Auric has it again. The two share so much chemistry and are so good at their small talk that they turn an otherwise mediocre story into one of excitement and value.

Auric collects gold and stores it in numerous countries across the globe. As pointed out by an English depository representative in an early scene, the value of gold changes as it crosses the border. So Auric’s plan is to contaminate the billion dollars worth of gold bullion at Fort Knox in order to raise the value of his own. It’s really a simple enough story. No fancy lairs, no shark tanks, no bombastic superweapons.

Goldfinger may not be the best Bond movie, but it’s the best movie about Bond. It doesn’t dig deep into his mind and soul; it shows us that he’s completely aware of his surroundings and perfectly capable of manipulating situations to his advantage. There have been many good Bond movies since this one, but they place a lot of emphasis on action and spectacle. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about that. But when you want to know something a little extra about your good friend 007, Goldfinger’s a perfectly adequate place to start. It’s great entertainment.

Best Moment | Some of Bond’s lines in this one are quite funny. Not the usual double entendres.

Worst Moment | All the soldiers dropping like dominos after being hit with the “nerve gas”. What in the…

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