The good, the bad, and the Bond: Re-evaluating 007 – For Your Eyes Only
FROM the outlandish vastness of jetpack space’s Moonraker, we return to the simpler, sterner basics of For Your Eyes Only.
Andrew Simpson: For Your Eyes Only has got everything that a classic Bond needs, but also provides a more moderate film without some of the usual, extravagant aspects we are used to in a Bond film. We are shown two sides: That of the thrills and outlandish action scenes we know and love, and a more mature, grittier Roger Moore in a classic role that’s backed up by a more mystery-driven plotline.
Absent in this film are; the gadgets, the big dominating villain and even M fails to make a real appearance after the sad death of Bernard Lee. Notably also is the fact that Bond doesn’t get into a women’s pants until at least half way through the film(!). The film benefits from some of the most exciting and extremely enjoyable ski and car chase scenes that I’ve seen in a Bond film, and the opening action sequence is both comical and gripping to watch, albeit a bit of a strange way for the film to start.
Despite this, the film is a little more sober, and that is shown from the very beginning where we are indeed reminded of the death of Bond’s wife in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service through an opening graveyard scene. Likewise, the film feels fresh, even with the use of many of the same plot styles like the aforementioned action-chases. There is enough new and exciting about them, with the stunt-scenes being some of the best seen so far, for it not to feel like you are watching the same thing again as we have in the previous outings.
The last Bond look-back review I wrote was for Majesty’s Secret Service and I would say this film stands out as the best since then, particularly with the action scenes and narrative that echo its greatness. John Glen takes on the role of director of this 12th Bond instalment after being second unit director beforehand, and his experience shows through in the quality of this film. For a debut, he did very well and his achievement with this film should not be understated.
Moore’s performance is one of the stand-outs of the movie, being able to capture you throughout with his class Moore charm. I’m inclined to say this could be my favourite when it comes to the Moore era due to his experience and solid performance. Carole Bouquet in her role as Bond girl Melina Havelock makes a solid performance, not mentioning that she also looks strikingly beautiful and showed she was also a fair actor which had not been seen since Diana Rigg in Majesty’s Secret Service. The films locations of Greece and Italy are also a great addition in their visuals and provide an excellent backdrop to the film.
For Your Eyes Only is a very enjoyable film to watch. It’s superb escapism and a film that captivates from beginning to end. It’s a welcome return to what we can normally trust in a traditional Bond film after the wacky plot lines of Moonraker. With Moore not getting any younger, this film goes some way to saving the 80s for the Bond franchise.
Andrew Monk: Despite having already gone on the record for harbouring a severe disdain for Roger Moore’s era, I find myself in the perverse situation of finding the negatives to what is actually one of my favourite Bond films. But, seeing as nothing is perfect, sometimes you have to acknowledge some obvious pitfalls that separates the good from the great.
Let’s start with plot, where Bond follows up on a loose end in searching for a sunken ship containing a system that helps British nuclear submarine targeting. Naturally, those pesky Soviets are after it too, as they were wont to do in 80s movies, and so attempt to do so through one of their agents, who later turns out to be Aristotle Kristatos played by Julian Glover. In spite of its 80s anti-Soviet cliché, the plot is actually very good and has plenty of twists and turns. However, there is no on-screen turn when Kristatos is revealed to be the actual villain. In one scene he is an ally of Bond, and in the next scene he appears in, he is very much the villain, with about as much motivation as a modern Marvel villain.
For me, the fact that For Your Eyes Only went for a more serious, more back to basics approach (as seen in the car chase in a Citroen 2CV, hardly a gadget filled Aston Martin or Lotus) made it one of the best Bond films of all time. That being said, despite its solid middle, its beginning and ending are weak and really don’t feel in tone with the rest of the film. The film starts with a return of Blofeld, who appears for 5 minutes in a silly remote controlled helicopter scene that results in the villain’s final appearance (until November, perhaps?).
The final scene involves a portrayal of Margaret Thatcher. Now say what you will about the person but Bond is fictional, and it therefore seems so out of place for such a prominent public figure in real life to be put there, in what is ultimately the gag at the end of the film before Bond gets with the girl. It leaves me at the end of the film wondering “why?” and ruins the finale.
Furthermore the presence of the character Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson) is, as intended, very annoying. So annoying, in fact, that you soon realise that the character is entirely pointless. This, in combination with her romantic advances on Bond, is cringe inducing, particularly when the age difference between the two is laughed off in a quip.
And so, while For Your Eyes Only is a great Bond movie that recovers some old territory that the Moore era had lost, it still has a few rough edges that date it and stop it from being one of the all-time great Bond films. Sadly, it’s all downhill from here.