Review: For Your Eyes Only

007 (Roger Moore) is tasked with retrieving a ship-based weapons device that allows for the control of British naval missiles on their nuclear submarines. However, Bond isn’t the only one after the device, nefarious people have bad intentions in mind for the device. Reluctantly assisting Bond is Melina (Carole Bouquet) whose marine archaeologist father was working for the Brits but killed by aforementioned nefarious people, in their attempt at retrieving the device. Julian Glover plays Kristatos, a wealthy Greek man who is currently financing the Olympic hopes of precocious American figure skater Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson), who develops a crush on Bond. Topol turns up as a charming smuggler named Columbo. Michael Gothard and a debuting Charles Dance play henchmen, Geoffrey Keen plays the Minister of Defence, and James Villiers turns up as Tanner, an underling of M who appears from time to time throughout the series (most notably played by Rory Kinnear in “Skyfall” and “SPECTRE”).

I can see what director John Glen (“Octopussy”, “Licence to Kill”) and screenwriters Richard Maibaum (“Dr. No”, “Goldfinger”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”) and Michael G. Wilson (“Octopussy”, “Licence to Kill”) are attempting with this 1981 007 flick. They’ve attempted to give us a Roger Moore Bond film that takes itself a little more seriously (even Moore himself is a little less fatuous than usual), a film that is somewhat low-key and a tad stripped back. I get it, but the results are a real mixed bag. The poster is the best thing here, my all-time favourite James Bond movie poster. The film is so-so.

I think Sheena Easton’s Oscar-nominated title song is underrated (#5 on my list) by some, with the songstress actually appearing during the nicely designed Maurice Binder credits. After some nice, solemn continuity with “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, we get a cool, if very silly opener that sees a wheelchair-bound Blofeld (actor unseen and the character isn’t actually named due to infamous copyright issues) attempting to kill Bond. With an orchestrated remote controlled chopper crash, no less. Yep. It’s weird that it’s one of my favourite things about the film and I normally loathe a lot of the camp in Moore’s 007 films, but the rest of the film just doesn’t figure out how to pull off what it’s trying to.

For now, let’s talk about the score by the well-respected Bill Conti (“Rocky”, “The Karate Kid”). I have a lot of time and respect for Conti but his disco-infused score here is an unmitigated disaster. There’s not even any flow to it, it feels disjointed in the extreme. It’s one of the worst Bond movie scores of all-time, it’s so cheap, cheesy, and dated. I mean, it was dated even at the time, disco was already dead surely! I think there’s way too much plot set-up in the opening 20 minutes, with Carole Bouquet’s Bond Girl given far too much emphasis. I get it, they wanted a Bond Girl with depth, ala Dame Diana Rigg in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (a film it resembles a poor man’s version of at times) with Bouquet’s capable, revenge-focussed character. Unfortunately it makes for a slow, long, and unnecessarily cluttered film. As for Ms. Bouquet, all the work done to beef her character up goes to waste when she can’t act, has no charisma, and well…she’s not really my type of Bond Girl in the looks department (and I think that’s a valid thing when it comes to this franchise if you think about it). The character is well-enough written, but Bouquet is a walking stiff in the part and I think her popularity here is entirely due to the role, not her performance. I’m unable to entirely praise the former due to the latter. In another actresses’ hands (say two-time Bond Girl Martine Beswicke) the character could’ve been a fiery classic, but Bouquet’s permanent scowl is tedious and unpleasant. It’s a big void, too given how important the character is to the film and how prominent.

As for perky former figure skater Lynn-Holly Johnson as the perky and precocious Bibi…she and the character are quite simply a mistake. A goofy, comical nuisance she comes across like an unwelcome holdover from all of Moore’s other films as 007. For a film otherwise concerned with more serious fare, she’s incongruous and unnecessary. So for Bond Girls, this one’s 0-2. Mind you, at least when Bibi turns up the film’s plot has well and truly kicked in as we go from rather boring Spanish locales to the snow, where the bulk of the plot takes place. It’s also where a lot of the fun action takes place too. If you like action scenes in your Bond films, this one certainly works in action mode, easily the best of the Moore era on that front. There’s plenty of skiing and some of the most completely insane stunts of the entire franchise (I’m not surprised a stuntman died during the bobsled scene, because it’s ridiculously dangerous-looking). Later we get one of the more dangerous-looking rock-climbing stunts too. I also thought it was clever to have Bond roughed up by some ice hockey thugs at one point. It’s a brutal sport. So you’ve got plenty of variety in the action, too.

The film does eventually pick up after a while once Topol turns up, but while it’s a nice try the attempt to disguise the film’s true villain, it doesn’t really work when you’ve hired Topol and Julian Glover for the false and true villain roles. The former is far more impressive than the latter. It’s just that he’s in keeping with the stripped back vibe of the film and Glover comes off lacking a bit of menace, really. He may be the series’ first non-megalomaniacal villain, but it’s not Glover’s finest hour as an actor. Topol is an immediate charmer, if a bit underused in what would likely inspire Robbie Coltrane’s character in the Brosnan 007 films. For menace one has to rely on Michael Gothard as the chief henchman, he’s a bit of Eurotrash fun when around. Meanwhile, as much as there’s a nice use of sharks at a couple of points and its nicely shot, the underwater scenes here aren’t exactly riveting. However, the film is almost worth seeing just for Q (Desmond Llewelyn) disguised as a Greek priest. Less agreeable and rather superfluous are some of the bit players here, including the always unnecessary Gen. Gogol (Walter Gotell), and although they’re rock-solid actors, I don’t think James Villiers or Geoffrey Keen were particularly essential to the film and merely add to the running time. I know why they’re here (M was absent here because Bernard Lee had died and they hadn’t found a replacement yet so Villiers’ Tanner gets to do the mission briefing himself), but to be honest I’d rather they weren’t. The film is already overstuffed and slow-paced as it is. Then there’s the ending with a none-too impressive Thatcher impersonator that reeks of Vintage Roger Moore 007 egregious buffoonery that the film mostly has tried to eschew. Whoever came up with that should’ve been taken out the back and shot.

Strangely low-key at times, but if you want a Roger Moore 007 adventure that has plenty of action, this is definitely your movie. I have too many problems with its slow and cluttered first 40 minutes, and loathe the two Bond girls. So I didn’t really get into this one as much as some of you will. I prefer “Live and Let Die” and “Octopussy” for my Roger Moore Bond films. Terrible music doesn’t help, either.

Rating: C+


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