Plot Quality: The plot is top notch. The story begins with Bond observing the funeral of a SPECTRE agent. He is here to make sure the dead man is indeed dead. He’s not. Bond realizes this and finishes the job. He then escapes with a jet pack. Way cool. That opening scene tells you the film is going to be violent, and it is. When next we meet Bond, he’s been sent to a rehab center for treatment of several wounds. While he’s there, he notices a Count Lippe, who just happens to have a criminal tattoo. Bond searches his room, but finds nothing. Bond is spotted, however, and Lippe makes an attempt on his life.
As Angelo boards the flight, Bond comes across the body of Derval at the clinic. Bond doesn’t know what this means. Angelo, however, does. Halfway through the flight, he kills the rest of the crew by turning off their air supply. He then pilots the Vulcan to Nassau, where he lands it on the water and it sinks to the ocean floor. A SPECTRE crew is waiting to remove the bombs... and kill Angelo.
Once in Nassau, Bond finds Derval’s sister Domino, who happens to be the mistress of Emilio Largo, the number two man in SPECTRE. Bond begins a cat and mouse game with Largo, Largo’s henchmen, and Fiona Volpe, as he tries to locate the bombs. The story ends with a massive underwater battle between Largo’s crew and special forces.
There are three things that let this film down, though they are minor. First, Volpe and Largo both fail to kill Bond when they should have. It is understandable why they didn’t, but it adds a hint of cartoon to the film. Largo should have shot Bond rather than relying on his sharks – even if it made sense that Bond would drown or be eaten. And Volpe should have shot him in the car, or the hotel, or the car a second time. Her failure seems to be that she was following orders to bring Bond in, but it still feels like stupidity.
The second problem is that once it becomes clear that Bond is right about the bombs, you would think Nassau would be flooded with agents, but MI-6 leaves this all up to Bond. That feels a bit like movie logic.
Bond Quality: This is Connery’s fourth film and he’s got it all down at this point. His suave is fantastic and he’s super charming. His brutal is truly brutal, and is helped by a script that lets him kill several people indifferently. His delivery of the one-liners is perfect. His fierce loyalty is perhaps lacking a bit in this one, but the film is more about trading murders than it is about loyalty. All told though, Connery is just about perfect in this one. He’s at ease in the role and really hitting his stride.
As an aside, both Domino and Largo had to be dubbed.
The other Bond girl is Luciana Paluzzi as Fiona Volpe. She’s a ruthless SPECTRE agent who mixes sex with murder. At least, she uses sex as a trap and then becomes the ruthless killer. Normally, when you have one solid Bond girl, the other is kind of a waste, but not here. Volpe is the polar opposite of Domino and both are fantastic. Whereas Domino is scared or reserved, Volpe is aggressive and bold, and Paluzzi makes her a fascinating character. Paluzzi presents Volpe as an amazing mix of adorable, sexy, and deadly, and she moves effortlessly between the three. She truly comes across as a real psychotic. In fact, like many real psychotics, she is so compelling that, even knowing she is evil, it wouldn’t surprise me if men still flocked to her. And her death is one of the most memorable in the series too, coming as a major surprise to the audience... and to her. (Note the cold look in Connery's eyes.)
Where there is a flaw in Largo, it is the ending. As I noted above, the film strongly suggests a one-on-one fight is coming, but it doesn’t. To the contrary, Largo turns coward and tries to run away only to be shot in the back. That’s not worthy of the setup.
Ultimately, this is a great film and a great Bond film. Its images are iconic. Its characters are strong and each is interesting in their own right. Connery is at the top of his game. There’s so much to love about this film, and while it does have a few flaws, they can be explained or forgiven. If only the ending had been stronger, this film could have been the best Bond film ever, but the ending was a letdown. Thus, it sits at a well-earned No. 005 of 0023.