Pretty sure I said I was gonna review the odd non-Bond film during this season. I’ve done 1 so far in the form of the excellent Looper. I was going to take a break from Bond after Moonraker but I took a look at how many days I had left to get through these before the release of Skyfall and then at the remaining 11 discs of the Bond Blu-ray boxed set and, well… For Your Eyes Only ladies and gentlemen! Click the link!!!
After shooting a galactic load of budget on Moonraker Cubby Broccoli wisely decided that the next Bond should be brought down to Earth. A conscious effort was then made to keep For Your Eyes Only grounded in reality. The plot involves a secret British vessel containing a device capable of commanding all the submarines in the British Navy being sunk. They can’t go recover this device officially as it was in contested waters at the time. A husband and wife team who had been sent to covertly recover this ATAC device are murdered before they can begin and so the Minister of Defence (Filling in for M as Bernard Lee had passed away shortly before filming his scenes) asks Bond to head out to Spain where their murderer apparently is. When Bond gets there he pretty much bumbles his way into getting captured just in time for the daughter of the murdered couple to kill to shoot her parents killer with a crossbow. Bond makes his escape with this Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) in her Citroen 2CV (the most Bond like of all Citroens) and they begin to work their way up the chain of command to find who ordered the hit and recover the device for themselves.
To its benefit this is a much more grounded story than has been the norm for the last few Bonds. Even The Spy Who Loved Me, as good as it was, had plenty of outlandish moments. Unfortunately someone mistook grounded for dull and listless because that’s what we get here. The majority of the action scenes either come out of nowhere or struggle to feel like they’re anything new. One in particular, a ski chase down a resort mountain, recalls On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and the opening scene of The Spy Who Loved Me. In the middle of that scene is a sequence that’s meant to be tense as Bond hides in a crowd of people and ends up getting shuffled onto a ski jump with a sniper waiting at the bottom to shoot him as he skis down. This fails though as the scene just stumbles along way too slowly and comes across like an ageing Bond has gone the wrong way and gotten lost.
Throughout the film Bond seems to just fumble about seeming to lack any of the confidence and cool under pressure mental state he usually displays. Roger Moore was 53 at the time of of filming For Your Eyes Only and it really shows. Bond has always been portrayed in his late 30s to early 40s and to be fair it’s not too far off the age range Moore was playing at this time. The trouble is that his finesse is gone. In some scenes Bond is as comfortable in the action as you’d expect but in many others he just seems out of his depth. He moves slower and seems tired. I think even Roger Moore was trying to play him as an ageing agent though. Bond even turns down sex with a very young woman, I’m hoping because Roger Moore had brought up how terrible that would be. Honestly, she’s about 19 years old. I don’t expect things to always go well for Bond but he needs to not look like a bumbling fool in the process. When Bond gets captured he should take it in his stride, not look as though he has no idea how he’ll get out of the situation.
I should mention the pre-credits sequence. Many people love it because it is the one vaguely over the top sequence in the film. My problem with it is the casual discarding of Blofeld. He’s not mentioned by name, due to the legal issues brought about by Kevin McClory, but it’s Blofeld. In the sequence Bond is visiting the grave of his former wife Tracy who was killed by Blofeld’s hench-woman at the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. It’s a nice touch to reference a previous Bond’s story and carry an element over. Bond is then picked up in a helicopter which just so happens to be radio controlled by the totally not Blofeld on the roof of a building. He then politely flies Bond all over the place avoiding multiple chances to crash him into any buildings nearby and giving him enough time to climb into the cockpit. After regaining control of the chopper Bond hooks Not Blofeld on the chopper leg and drops him down a chimney. Goodbye Bond’s biggest enemy. You’re gone in a pre-credit scene. I understand that they had no plans to use him again but come on, this is just pointless. It’s the sort of nonsense that has no benefit to the film whatsoever and writes off a great villain as though he’s a random henchman.
Bond’s girl in this film, Melina Havelock, manages to do something I thought was not possible. She out-woodens Holly Goodhead from Moonraker. I know the Bond girls are chosen for looks first and acting skill second but really, the ability to pronounce a sentence like a human is a quality worth looking for. Carole Bouquet reads every line as if she were a robot in a George Lucas film. Or worse yet as if she were a human in a George Lucas film. R2D2 at least conveyed emotion. As is to be expected she lacks chemistry with Roger Moore. On the plus side her character does have more of a real reason to join Bond on this mission as she”s out for revenge and a decent effort is made over the course of the film to tackle what going after revenge can mean. What doesn’t make sense is Bond trying to stop her killing the man responsible for her parents death at the end. It’s not like she didn’t already kill two guys earlier on and wound another. Any mental damage is already done.
In the end For Your Eyes Only gets points for at least trying to scale Bond back a few degrees before the scale of his adventures got too out of control. The story is a lot smaller and it even manages to have a few decent scenes, such as when Bond kicks a car teetering on the edge of a cliff. Clearly a conscious effort to bring back the blunt instrument of death aspect to Bond. Trouble is that scene doesn’t suit Moore’s Bond. The car chase in the Citroen 2CV at the start of the film is quite a cool one as it relies more on Bond’s skills than any gadgets. There’s almost no gadgets at all in the film, a point hammered home when Bond’s Lotus explodes early on. That said he gets given a new Lotus later.. which he leaves at a ski resort come to think of it. I’m sure Q would want that back. The biggest issue with this film is how forgettable it all is. Scene’s lack style and Roger Moore lacks grace. It’s nice to see villains that aren’t world domination obsessed but they could have at least provided a decent fight at the film’s finale. Look out for a young Charles Dance as a random goon in the films first half. Overall For Your Eyes Only is a Bond film that delivers little impact or flair but is at least a step in the right direction following the stupidity of Moonraker. Up next, Octopussy.