I’m a die-hard James Bond movie fan. And Goldfinger ranks up there as perhaps my all-time favorites James Bond film.
At least it was until I watched it again recently. I’m now thinking of downgrading it a bit.
Yes, it still has all the iconic scenes that remain so indelibly imprinted in my mind. But watching it again, I was struck by how much of the movie makes absolutely no sense from any logical perspective. And I found it impossible to ignore this, even accepting the idea that the movie is basically an escapist fantasy.
I won’t bore you with a complete list of all the ridiculousness in the movie. Instead, I want to focus on just one sequence; a sequence that so defies logic that I believe it could well be the #1 all-time most logic-defying sequence in movie history. I’m talking about the scene that begins with the assembled hoodlums inside Goldfinger’s Kentucky ranch.
For starters, in the meeting room, Goldfinger unveils an elaborate hidden control panel that he uses to show the assembled group his big plan. However, the show consists only of a simple map and a 3-D mock-up of Fort Knox, also concealed until he presses the buttons to reveal them. Even granting that these items may have had some use beyond displaying them to his criminal associates, it’s hard to imagine why such an expensive and elaborate setup was needed to conceal and reveal these two items. Couldn’t he just keep them in a locked room? Okay, Goldfinger is super-rich and can afford it. But still.
Anyway, we’re just getting warmed up. Next, Goldfinger kills off the entire group by mechanically sealing off the room and spraying nerve gas into it. Are we to believe that he kills people off this way with such frequency that he decided to install a permanent setup just for doing so? Surely, there are many simpler less elaborate ways he could have taken care of this matter. Again, I can pretty much forgive this. James Bond movies, after all, are all about elaborate schemes.
But now, we enter into the realm of the unforgivable. If he always intended to kill everybody (as seemed to be the case), why even bother giving them the dog and pony show about how he was going to raid Fort Knox? Why not just kill them as soon as they were all in the room. Again, I understand that the movie needs to reveal the Fort Knox plot to the audience. But couldn’t the movie makers find a way to do it that doesn’t require that you be halfway in a coma in order for you not to notice how preposterous it all is?
Even if you are willing to suspend disbelief and accept all of the preceding, there remains the coup de grace of the entire sequence:
One of the criminals, appropriately named Solo, decides to opt out of the Fort Knox deal. He wants to take his promised money and leave. Goldfinger agrees and sends him on his way. Given that even he is going to be killed anyway (shot by Oddjob, as we soon find out), why let him leave? Why not just have him die in the room with the rest of the hoodlums? Goldfinger could have easily come up with an excuse to leave the room before letting Solo exit.
Okay, so Goldfinger passed on this opportunity. A lapse in judgement perhaps. But why not then shoot Solo before he ever leaves the property? Ah, that would still be too easy. Instead, Goldfinger puts Solo into a limo, ostensibly with instructions for Oddjob to drive him to the airport. And yes, there’s the payment of a million dollars in gold bullion in the trunk!
Solo never makes it to the airport — to no one’s surprise. Oddjob shoots him in the car along the way. Oddjob then dumps the body in some remote location, drives back to the ranch, and takes the gold out of the trunk, right? In your dreams. Why do anything that makes even the slightest sense when there is a much more complicated and totally idiotic way to accomplish the same goal?
What actually happens is that Oddjob drives to an auto junkyard that has machinery to crush and compress cars into nice compact cubes. And then, after compressing the limo (with the dead Solo still inside, of course), he places the resulting cube on the flatbed of a truck, somehow conveniently waiting for him, which he then drives back to the ranch. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?
If you have not yet turned your brain off by this point, you may be wondering: Why take the compressed car back at all? Ah, you forgot about the gold. The million dollars in gold is still contained within the now heap of metal and human body parts — and needs to be extracted. Holy smokes, why didn’t Oddjob just remove the gold from the car before he compacted it? That would have saved Goldfinger from the ugly extraction task. In fact, it would have eliminated the need to take the compacted car back to the ranch at all. Ah, but then we wouldn’t have been able to have the witticism, spoken by Bond and Goldfinger in different scenes, of Solo’s “pressing engagement.” Oh yes, what does a total absence of any sense matter, when there’s a witty remark at stake?
Okay. I know James Bond movies aren’t meant to be taken seriously. And I will more than willing to accept some lack of logic in the name of fun. You’d be hard pressed to find an action movie that doesn’t have at least a few such minor lapses. But there comes a point when it all gets too much. For me, the Goldfinger movie surpasses that point several times over. I guess I was more forgiving when I watched it when I was younger. But I am not now.
Perhaps I am more harsh now because I see a bigger problem lurking. I believe the success of these early James Bond movies laid the groundwork for most of the hundreds of action movies that followed. The Bond franchise showed movie makers that you don’t need an intelligent script, or even one that makes any sense, for a movie to be successful. Throw in enough fight scenes, chase scenes, special effects, and explosions — and the audience will pay for a ticket and ignore the fact that there is no coherent plot to the movie.
That’s why I am almost always disappointed now in each new action movie that comes out. I hope the day may yet come when, in describing a movie, the words intelligent and action need not be mutually exclusive. I see some glimmer of hope here with movies such as 2005’s Batman Begins. But they are still more the exception than the rule. The vast majority of this summer’s movie blockbusters, sadly, appears to be sticking to the old formula.