5 of 5 stars
If you’ve only seen one Bond film, chances are it was Goldfinger. Goldfinger was the film that established the Bond formula, and perhaps used the formula best. It is the quintessential Bond film. Later films in the series would try to mimic the formula and energy of Goldfinger, with varying degrees of success.
This is the first of many Bond films to begin with a set piece, known as the pre-title sequence, that’s unrelated to the main plot of the film. This is a device to introduce Bond as the hero. Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai may have been the first movie to use this device, but it has been used extensively since, such as in Dirty Harry. Bond approaches a warehouse by water, using a duck decoy as a disguise for his breathing apparatus, blows up said warehouse to halt the selling of ‘heroin flavored bananas to finance revolutions,’ peels off his wetsuit to reveal a perfectly pressed tux, then pulls out a flower from somewhere I don’t want to know to insert into the suit’s lapel.
Following the opening credits, accompanied by the series’s most memorable theme song, Bond’s off to Miami where he meets his friend Felix Leiter to receive his mission. Bond is to keep tabs on a Eurovillian named Auric Goldfinger, a cheesy billionaire with a bad suntan (I feel like there’s an obvious comparison I’m forgetting about). Cec Linder takes over the role of Leiter from Jack Lord, who played the CIA officer in Dr. No. While Lord was born the year before Linder, Linder was in fact much older.
Bond watches as Goldfinger hustles a game of Go Fish by the hotel pool. He immediately figures Goldfinger has a lookout. He locates and confronts the beautiful lookout, introducing himself as, ‘Bond. James Bond.’ Even wearing whatever the hell this is, Connery is still badass:
Bond trails Goldfinger across exotic locations like Switzerland and Kentucky. After a car chase in Switzerland causes 007 to crash his iconic Aston Martin DB5 when he confuses the car’s reflection in the mirror for an oncoming vehicle (really?), he’s captured and strapped to a table beneath a giant frickin’ laser beam. Here we get the most often quoted dialogue exchange in the series, where Bond asks Goldfinger, ‘Do you expect me to talk?’ And Goldfinger responds, ‘No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!’
Bond convinces Goldfinger not to slice him in half genitals-first with a laser beam, and instead 007 finds himself on a plane piloted by a woman named Pussy Galore across the Atlantic. He’s thrown into a prison beneath Goldfinger’s Kentucky ranch, where the villain has called together a convention of ‘30s style hoodlums to explain his plan to break into Fort Knox. Bond manages to break out of his cell just in time to hear the scheme, which seems to be conveniently explained for his benefit. (This is what’s known in the movie biz as a “plot device.”) One of the hoods decides he doesn’t want anything to do with the plan. Goldfinger’s Korean chauffeur, Oddjob (played by Japanese-American Olympic silver medalist Harold Sakata), shoots the gangster in the backseat of his car, then takes the car to the dump to be crushed into a cube with the body still inside. Goldfinger then kills all the other gangsters anyway. So why did he go through his elaborate demonstration, which he’d clearly put a lot of work into, in the first place? Why kill the other gangster separately when he planned to kill them all?
Bond informs Goldfinger why his plan to knockoff Fort Knox is unfeasible (this was actually the original plot in Ian Fleming’s novel). Goldfinger tells Bond his plan isn’t to steal the gold from Fort Knox, but to blow it up with a nuclear weapon he obtained from the Red Chinese, thereby causing the value of his own gold to skyrocket, while playing on Americans’ fears of the Yellow Peril in the 1960s. This all culminates in a showdown between Bond, Oddjob, Goldfinger, the Chinese army and the U.S. Army at Fort Knox. Bond scrambles to disarm the atomic bomb, saving the day with exactly 0:07 seconds to spare!
Following the more serious spy thriller From Russia with Love, Goldfinger sets the tone for the series, balancing camp, style and amazing set pieces. It’s the most representative film in the franchise and establishes James Bond as a cultural icon.