Posted December 8, 2010 by editor in Retrospectives
 
 

For Your Eyes Only


In 1981 James Bond returned to our cinema screens in For Your Eyes Only – [FYEO] and once again the series got a sort of soft reset. Moonraker had really set the bar for super extravagant, large scale Bond movies, and FYEO was a conscious effort to withdraw from that and do something smaller, tighter, focused, tougher and more realistic. There are no megalomaniacal billionaires intent on world domination this time round.

 

Instead the story is on an altogether less grandiose scale and we find our favourite secret agent in MacGuffin mode. The MacGuffin in question being a British Navy Polaris missile control device [ATAC] that gets lost beneath the waves when the British Naval vessel which houses it is sunk in a freak accident. News of the loss of the device sparks all manner of international black marketers hell-bent on acquiring it of course, which results (slightly awkwardly) in the killing of Sir Timothy Havelock, a marine archaeologist who had been hired by the British to find the sunken wreck which still conceals the ATAC device.

007 is dispatched to investigate Havelock’s murder which brings him into contact with (in my opinion), one of the most stunning of all the Bond leading ladies Melina (Carole Bouquet). She is the surviving daughter of the Havelocks, and is intent on exacting revenge on those responsible for her parent’s savage and untimely death. The movie intertwines Melina’s revenge story with the MacGuffin, to propel the action along. In the process, it tries to be more personal and character driven than the common or garden Bond outing. It sort of manages it, but in my opinion there’s a fly in the ointment, and his name’s Moore, Roger Moore.

 

There had been talk of Roger Moore stepping down after Moonraker and in some ways it might have been better if new blood (not necessarily Timothy Dalton though), had appeared at this juncture. Moore was well over 50 and starting to look more than a little past his prime, as were one or two of the other cast regulars (most noticeably Miss Moneypenny). I think that Moore’s age, his acting chops, his style and the boundaries he had established for his Bond, were not wholly compatible with the direction the movie was trying to take. The result being that it never really works properly.

For many people the best scene in the movie is where Bond kicks Locque’s (Michael Gothard) car off the cliff; killing him in cold blood. It is a moment of uncharacteristic cruelty for Moore’s Bond and it seems that our Rodge was not keen on shooting it. This kind of sums up the problem this film has.

 

First time director John Glen was probably very happy to have the comfort and reassurance of Moore’s presence, even if it hampered the pursuit of a more hard-edged movie. After the truly out-of-this-world scope of Moonraker, it was obvious that no further mileage could or should be made down that road. The budget of the new film was understood to have dictated a smaller story anyway (although having said that, FYEO’s final cost was not that far short of Moonraker’s only two years earlier). All that is fine and dandy. Although, I’ll admit that at the time of its release, at all of ten years old, I was pretty bummed out that there weren’t gonna be any spaceships or laser blasters this time. As an adult, upon re-watching the movie over the years and absorbing it more, I came to terms with the logic of that change in direction. I even understand the decision to symbolically remove Bond’s ability to rely on Q Branch too much by contriving to blow up his car. Make no mistake though Mr. Glen, EVERY kid watching that scene (with the original sub-aquatic version firmly in mind), and seeing that gorgeous Lotus Esprit Turbo get blown to smithereens, was cursing you and the film producers that such an awesome car had only been in the movie for about three minutes!! “Nooooooooo” we all shouted in collective agony. It kinda had the effect of further bumming me out, and even though I don’t miss the laser blasters, this bit still irks big time.

 

I know he gets another one, but that car is also criminally underused and never turns a wheel in anger, let alone fire a heat seeker! Like I said, I understand the thinking behind these plot decisions, but the net result is the surgical removal of one of the best loved parts of that well understood Bond universe; gadget cars!!

The movie continues on this stripped back tack and puts Bond in one or two truly dramatic situations en route to a fairly predictable finale. The most brutal scene in the movie is the way the Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris) is mown down in cold blood on the beach by Locque driving a powerful buggy, thereby setting up the motivation for Bond’s own aforementioned killing of said baddie later on. It’s quite tough because in the short time she’s in the movie, we do warm to Harris’s character.

Unfortunately, these dramatic elements are somewhat cancelled out by the many humorous situations also along the way. The Citroen 2CV chase, the ice hockey players being ‘scored’ into the goal, and the relationship with the young ice skater Bibi. In a sort of nod to Moore’s age, he parries her amorous advances like she’s nothing more than a petulant child. Interesting…even in Moonraker he’d have surely bedded her first.

 

Some reasonable action sequences are on offer to be fair, although I think the scene where Bond skis down a toboggan run was probably more dangerous and thrilling a stunt to perform than it ended up looking in the movie. Some of the rock climbing was also quite cool too (so obviously not our Roger though).

Finally, we get to the showdown on a mountain top retreat where both story arcs meet their natural end. The baddie is killed, and the ATAC is destroyed by JB ensuring a ‘Detente’ with the Russian buyer and Melina’s revenge is given a kind of closure.

Strangely enough, the movie seems to have a very 1980s vibe to it, curious as the decade (as we know it) was barely in existence. Sheena Easton’s theme song helped, I think. It’s quite a popular one, although not a favourite of mine.
While we’re on the subject of music, FYEO is notable for the liberal use of classic Bond orchestral themes. An effort perhaps to tie the movie back to the Halcyon days of Connery?

 

For me the movie fails to deliver a satisfying alternative to the large scale event, roller-coaster ride type episodes. It hits wide of the mark by not having the courage of its convictions where it counts. It didn’t end up particularly tough or tight. I just don’t think Moore had the grapes for that.

For Your Eyes Only feels to me like it’s going for the ‘Less is more’ approach, but instead it seemed to offer just ‘less’ – ‘Less is Moore’ if you like.
Watching the movie really made me wonder how the hell we got TWO further Moore outings after this one!!

 

Ben Pegley


editor