Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Goldfinger


  There's a scene in Goldfinger where 007 is making his getaway in his tricked out Aston Martin DB5 from some enemies. He flips open a panel between the seats, and flicks a switch, sending thick rows of vision-obscuring smoke billowing out the back of his car. The woman in the passenger seat smiles at the neat gadget, and Bond smirks. This scene perfectly embodies the spirit of the 007 movies, and of Goldfinger specifically. Bond is back, in style, and showing off all his new tricks. He's proud of it too. The movie is aware of this, and rightfully so. This is the stuff we like to see when we watch 007 movies. Tongue planted in cheek, but not too firmly. There are levels on which you can't take any 007 movie seriously, but for the most part, they play it straight and deliver good old fashioned spy thrills. Goldfinger is no exception, and even raises the bar even higher for all it's successors.

  Bond wouldn't be as fun if his gadgets did all the work for him, so of course Sean Connery proves yet again that his rough-and-tumble take on the British secret agent is a perfect fit. Sure, 007 uses a gadget here and there, but he's always ready to throw down, or more importantly- think his way out of a situation. They really do show his deductive skills at work here, and not only here but in the previous two movies as well. I feel that's something always overlooked about Bond. He tends to use his head more than his gadgets. He thinks ahead, anticipates, and prepares. Even as the situation evolves, he's constantly assessing a new way to approach it. Granted, eventually, given the nature of these movies, it's obviously going to boil down to fights, shootouts, or a chase scene. However, that doesn't negate the fact that 007 is one smart cookie, and Connery knows how to play that up quite well.

  In this threequel, Bond is sent out to investigate Auric Goldfinger, the eponymous villain of the movie who's supposedly smuggling his gold illegally. Of course, a much larger plot is afoot, and soon a very dangerous game of cat and mouse evolves between Bond and Goldfinger. The thrills come fast and hard in this one. From the explosive opening gambit, to Bond's repeated encounters with Goldfinger's iconic henchman, Oddjob. The movie opens up the throttle even more than it's predecessor did. Also introduced in this one, is Bond's trademark Aston Martin. The gadget filled Bond-mobile has rather limited screentime in this one, but makes a hell of an impact nonetheless. It's sleek, sexy, and full of surprises. Coincidentally, that statement fits the movie on the whole.

  I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention the Bond girl of this outing... Pussy Galore. A vast improvement over the previous Bond girl. Ms.Galore is much more of an equal to 007 than either of the prior two Bond girls. She's tough, no-nonsense, and not afraid to judo-flip Bond on his ass. Granted, James wins her over eventually and she actually helps save the day, but this brings me to my first (and really my only) point of contention with Goldfinger. This is a little spoileristic I guess? So if you haven't seen it... whatever. At one point, Bond and Galore have some time alone, with the impending climax mere minutes away (no pun intended) and they have a playful little sparring match in a barn on Mr.Goldfinger's ranch in Kentucky. It ends with Bond physically forcing himself on her. She's trying to push him away, and he's leaning in for a kiss, overpowering her. She of course ends up melting into his arms, but that doesn't negate several glaring problems with this.

  One, it's basically rape. Half the world would be up in arms if the current James Bond did this in the next movie. I don't even feel I should have to elaborate on that point. It's extremely cut and dry. Secondly, it undermines her character. Obviously the two characters were going to have sex sooner or later, but it doesn't happen on her terms, and the fact Bond forced her into it ends up being semi-essential to the plot. Her uniqueness, her identity, everything about her becomes instantly irrelevant because she's useless until Bond has sex with her. Only then does she realize she should do what's right. It would've been much more compelling if the balance of power had been in her hands still when this happened. Of course, that was probably unthinkable for the 1960's, but it's still lazy writing in my opinion. The whole scene, and the subsequent effects of it make me very uncomfortable.

  I do understand that society and it's view on women and their roles was all very different in the 1960's. Let's just say I'm glad we've graduated past that. Nobody is denying that Bond girls are largely there to be eye candy, but saying that's all they should be is ridiculous. A dumb, wimpy Bond girl is annoying and frustrating to watch. The most interesting ones? The ones people remember? Those are the smart ones. The ones that can hold their own with Bond. Isn't it interesting that the best ones are the ones that rival 007 as an equal? If not an equal physically, then emotionally, or intellectually. Food for thought if nothing else. Pussy Galore was a victim of bad writing, but for the most part was a very fun character who didn't let Bond push her around... until she landed on her back. Then all bets were off.

  Anyway, what's a 007 movie without it's villain? Auric Goldfinger isn't the visual image of menacing. He has neither the well worn scowl of Rosa Klebb, nor the icy cold demeanor of Dr.No. He's rather rotund, greedy, and perhaps a bit over confident. He makes a unique villain for Bond, and one that comes quite close to killing him on several occasions, not the least of which is the iconic scene involving an industrial laser. "Do you expect me to talk?", "No, Mr.Bond! I expect you to die!" Goldfinger retorts, as the laser beam inches closer to Bond on a fixed trajectory to cut him in half, right down the middle. At this point, I was legitimately on the edge of my seat. I've seen the scene several times, and it never loses it's biting tension. It's a classic moment, and it's only one of many. The movie is full of great scenes. For certain reasons, it'll never be my absolute favorite, but it's in my top five. You can expect this one to deliver. As if you needed me to tell you that...

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