Logline: Bond is sent on a mission to recover a nuclear submarine control system before it falls into enemy hands.
Roger Moore’s recent passing has inspired me to finish this retrospective of his Bond cannon, which I started at the end of 2016. Roger Moore starred as British secret agent 007 in seven films, beginning with Live and Let Die in 1973 and concluding with A View to a Kill in 1985.
For Your Eyes Only marked Moore’s fifth appearance as James Bond and in many ways, it represents a return to the character’s gritty, more realistic roots. Producer Albert R. Broccoli wanted to bring Bond back down to Earth after the sci-fi spectacle that was Moonraker (1979). The result is a solid Bond film that ranks above Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) but isn’t quite as fun and entertaining as The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) or Moonraker. Frankly, For Your Eyes Only isn’t as good as I remembered. There isn’t anything truly spectacular in the film except perhaps for the rock climbing sequence, which is quite impressive and full of tension. Its one of the few instances in the film where I felt Bond was in real danger as opposed to the majority of the time where the perceived threat feels small. I think this is largely due to the film’s villain, Kristatos (Julian Glover) who isn’t very menacing or memorable. The Bond girl, Melina (Carole Bouquet) is a bit underwhelming as well. While I appreciated her depth and backstory, Bouquet’s performance is a bit muted and I do not think the dubbing did her any favors either. One of the film’s few interesting supporting characters, Columbo (Chaim Topol) is a good ally for Bond and serves to lighten the mood.
Besides the riveting rock climbing sequence, another scene of note occurs when Bond and Melina are dragged behind Kristatos’ yacht. The scene is taken from Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die but the filmmakers did not have room for it in that book’s adaptation and so opted to put it in For Your Eyes Only instead. The scene stands out because it is so fresh and unique unlike some of the film’s more formulaic car and ski chases.
One of the complaints I hear most frequently cited by viewers while discussing For Your Eyes Only is the character of Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson), a young figure skater training for the Olympics. Where most people find Bibi intolerable and annoying, I did not have a problem with her. In fact, the scene in which Bond declines sex with Bibi always give me a good laugh. “Well put your clothes on. I’ll buy you an ice cream,” Bond quips. Bond seemingly denies her because she is too young which is ironic considering the age gap between Bond and Melina.
For Your Eyes Only marked John Glen’s first time directing a Bond picture. The filmmaker would continue to direct the Bond films throughout the 1980s. Glen and the production team strived to create something more gritty and realistic than Moore’s previous entries. Despite this, the film is bookended by two ridiculous sequences that hamper the film considerably in my estimation. In fact, I proceed to skip the opening pre-title sequence when I watch For Your Eyes Only now and go straight to the main titles with Sheena Easton’s great title tune. The opening sequence in which Bond visits the grave of his dead wife and has a confrontation with Blofeld is misguided. The ending sequence is almost equally incomprehensible with Bond receiving a phone call from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Even though I have lodged many complaints against For Your Eyes Only, I do not want to give the impression that I dislike the film. For all of its missteps, it is a solid Bond adventure. Longtime Bond composer John Barry is missing this time around. Instead, Bill Conti (Rocky) provided the film’s score. Even though it dates the film considerably, it is a solid score. For most of its runtime, For Your Eyes Only is a welcomed return to Bond’s more realistic roots. It features some stunning underwater photography and Moore is a joy to watch as usual.
Rating (out of ****): ***