Nashville Dude’s review published on Letterboxd:
The sets this time out are nothing short of gargantuan, the set pieces throughout are less kinetic than they are HERCULEAN UNDERTAKINGS OF PRODUCTION VALUE, and Sean Connery is having such a fucking blast playing Bond that it's hard not to go just go along with the whole thing, even with its distended running time and wet blanket of a supervillain (sharks aside).
SIDEBAR: It's kind of awesome that we get a scene with Fiona Vulpe where she castigates Bond about his tendency to sleep with women and "turn them from their villainous ways." It's astonishing to realize this series was actually that self-aware even as early as film #4. END SIDEBAR.
In summation: A bad villain, a terrible Felix Leiter, a distended run-time that is both good (scenes have room to breathe, the production value on display keeps everything interesting, etc.) and bad (it's a really long movie, still one of the longest Bonds), 2 great Bond girls in Domino and Fiona Vulpe who if I'm remembering correctly aren't bested until Diana Rigg's Tracy in OHMSS (but I could be wrong), some regressive gender stuff that's still aged better than asspat/"man talk" from Goldfinger, a bomb-ass poster that's at least as good as any the series would ever produce - with the added bonus of depicting action scenes that actually occur in the film, stunning location shooting from the Caribbean that's not just limited to the Awesome underwater sequences, etcetera. Not to mention, this film features what might be Connery's finest performance AS James Bond, maintains a tone that stays *just* on the right side of realistic without devolving into camp and silliness, and there are SHARKS.
So yeah, this gets a bum rap as "the boring one" mostly because it isn't as over-the-top as Goldfinger, but in many ways this film is every bit that picture's equal. The pacing is more luxurious than boring, and once one sinks into its rhythms Thunderball becomes a wholly captivating entry in the Bond series even in spite of its dull, ancient, and well-eyepatched supervillain. I might even rank it a cut above Dr. No as a close-3rd, just behind Goldfinger.
And if I'm being kind, Leiter is more functional than intolerable this time out. There's just nothing to the actor playing him, is all.