Revisiting movies I've recently acquired
Goldfinger, along with From Russia with Love did a lot to codify what would define the James Bond film series as well as have a tremendous impact on what would be perceived as spy films for the great future. And with good cause as together they represent some of the best films that the series had to offer. That's not to say that Goldfinger is a perfect film in the genre it helped to define as it suffers from having a rather ineffectual protagonist and still has some rather pointless moments, but the film manages to raise the stakes especially in terms of the villain and plot and provide a number of memorable characters and moments, even if some of the elements are on the silly side.
In this case, after a mission, super MI6 spy 007, James Bond (Sean Connery), is enjoying some R&R when he is asked to look into a wealthy businessman and gold trader Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe). This doesn't go well and as Bond continues to investigate Goldfinger, he slowly uncovers a terribly ingenious plot involving Communist China and the gold supply of the United States.
It's interesting that Bond is the most inconsequential element of the story, mostly acting as a captive observer to Goldfinger's plans for much of the film. If it weren't for the audacity of Goldfinger's planning the largeness of the characters in the film as well as Bond's repeated, but failed attempts to escape or foil Goldfinger's plans, the film might have been dull. Fortunately, the film is filled with larger than life characters, a surprisingly interesting villainous plot and some rather radical events and set pieces that keep it interesting, despite Bond's general ineffectiveness--there are probably only two things Bond does during the film that have any impact and one of those two things, involving Goldfinger's pilot, Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman), is a bit unbelievable and villainous.
So with so much of the entertainment value coming from seeing the over-the-top action and set pieces, it's a good thing that the film delivers, especially with some iconic moments, including a car chase with a gadget loaded Aston Martin, a high powered laser death trap (which is a bit silly considering that Goldfinger could have just shot Bond), a fight with the intimidating henchman of Goldfinger, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), a death by gold paint and more, all delivered with the kind of slightly silly slickness that defines the 007 series. New director Guy Hamilton handles the action effectively and the actors are fairly decent, with Frobe having a dubbing performance to effectively match his physical one.
When a film effectively gets you to accept its over-the-top sillier moments, you know you're watching an entertaining one. That doesn't really excuse a couple pointless moments or that the hero of the story really doesn't accomplish much, but it makes it much more easier to ignore as we watch the crazy number of stimulating set pieces fly by during the film's run, which is admittedly a little on the long side. While Goldfinger doesn't prove the film series to be the pinnacle of art or entertainment, it remains important for having a heavy influence on a whole sub-genre of film and managing to still be one of the best films in the long-running series. Goldfinger is as silly as its gold-obsessed villain and his theme song, but it manages to be surprisingly fun despite that and shows the iconic series hitting a good stride. 7/10.