For Your Eyes Only review - by Jake

For Your Eyes Only poster

"He had no head for heights."

For Your Eyes Only is the twelfth film in the James Bond series and was released in 1981. After the fantastical and lavish 'Moonraker', the series was brought back down to earth with this film which includes characters from the Ian Fleming short stories 'Four Your Eyes Only' and 'Risico' and eschews the space-age gadgetry of previous Roger Moore entries. The plot of the film revolves around the sinking of the spy ship St Georges, which was equipped with an ATAC missile communication device. James Bond is sent on the trail of this device and teams up with Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), out for revenge after witnessing the murder of her Marine archaeologist father Sir Timothy Havelock on his yacht. Sir Timothy, a Secret Service operative, was also after the ATAC before his death and Bond soon has his hands full restraining the crossbow wielding Melina from her revenge mission and trying to work out if Columbo (Topol) or Kristatos (Julian Glover) is the real enemy...

For Your Eyes only saw the promotion of second-unit director and editor John Glen to full-fledged director and the underrated Glen makes his presence felt with some excellent action sequences. The pre-credit sequence is a bit daft but good fun and begins with Bond placing some flowers on the grave of his late wife Teresa "Tracy" Bond. It's a nice moment and was originally conceived for a new James Bond actor. Roger Moore had made it fairly clear he didn't want to return to the role and this scene was intended to be a continuity moment for a new 007. When Moore had a last minute change of heart (as he usually did!) it was left in the film and actually works very well, giving Moore's Bond a resigned, slightly weary moment of reflection. 

A helicopter is then sent for Bond but, flying over Westminster, the helicopter is placed on remote control by a man in a wheelchair who looks an awful lot like Blofeld (although not identified as such). Eon's ability to use Blofeld had been compromised by the tangled legal web spun by Kevin McClory so this PTS is a bit on the cheeky side. Bond has to regain control of the helicopter by clambering outside it in a very entertaining sequence that features some excellent model work by the great Derek Meddings. Maurice Binder's usual nicely done title sequence is quite unusual here in that it features Sheena Easton onscreen within the titles singing the theme song, which is pleasant enough as Bond songs go. 

The film opens with the sinking of the St Georges, which has been disguised as a fishing trawler. It's a very effective sequence with good work again by Derek Meddings. There are some good set-pieces in For Your Eyes Only on the whole including a ski-chase that involves motorbikes and a bobsleigh run, an assault on an Albanian dockside and a mountain climbing sequence which leads to the climax on a remote monastery. My one gripe with these sequences is that some of them perhaps go on for too long. For Your Eyes Only is definitely a film that could have lost ten or fifteen minutes here or there. 

The mountain climbing sequence, for example, while well-staged, and intentionally back to basics after the outrageous mayhem of Roger Moore's previous two films, does go on a bit. I know Bond isn't going to fall off and die so there is only so much tension to be generated. There is also an underwater submersible scene that slows the film down in my opinion and drags somewhat. With the possible exception of the ski-chase, perhaps the best action sequence in For Your Eyes Only involves Bond and Melina in a country car chase ("I love a drive in the country. Don't you...?") in a battered Renault. We do also get to see Roger Moore driving a Lotus again which, let's be honest, is always fun.

The casting in For Your Eyes Only is reasonably good on the whole. Julian Glover is fine as kristatos and displays different facets to his character in order to achieve his ends. Carole Bouquet is one of the most striking Bond girls but not the greatest actress in the world. Her chemistry with Roger Moore in the film is almost like a father and daughter team with the disparity in their ages but they do work nicely together at times. The oft-maligned Moore has an excellent snowy scene on a horse-drawn sledge where he tries to persuade Melina to calm down and be more rational. The pair are also good in the keelhauling sequence, taken from the Live And Let Die novel. It's one of the highlights of For Your Eyes Only with Bond and Melina battling coral and sharks as they are dragged along underwater.

Elsewhere, Topol is fine as Columbo and brings his customary enthusiasm to the film. Lynn-Holly Johnson as Bibi Dahl, a young skater financed by the villain of the film, is perhaps though one addition too many to the cast. It was probably a wise move to have Roger rebuff her advances and offer to buy her an ice-cream instead! Series regulars Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell and Walter Gotell are back again and Q has a funny scene where he poses as a Priest in a Confessional Booth to meet Bond. John Wyman as Erich Kriegler makes a decent and very physical henchman and Michael Gothard is suitably creepy as Emile Leopold Loque.

Roger Moore is fine in the film and has his most cold-blooded moment as 007 when he kicks a car over a cliff. For Your Eyes Only gives him his usual quota of one-liners and chases but he does get some quieter, more introspective/restrained moments in the film for a change and plays them very well.

Apart from some the action sequences going on for too long and some draggy moments, the biggest problem the film has is Bill Conti's disco score which was probably dated about a week after its completion. Some of the action cues are very good but overall it's an eccentric and somewhat jarring score that detracts from what is supposed to be the 'down to earth' Roger Moore film. It's a great shame that John Barry skipped this one because I think he would, as usual, have lifted the film up a few notches and married the score to the images onscreen in a more Bondian and timeless fashion.

Overall, For Your Eyes Only is an interesting addition to the series if not vintage Bond. While it has some excellent moments, it lacks the wow factor and big ending of some other entries and some of the comedy (Janet Brown as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher!), as well as the score, have dated the film a tad more than some other Bonds.

It does have some very good action sequences though and makes very good use of the locations, which include the Ionian Sea, Corfu, Madrid and Cortina.

For Your Eyes Only is not perfect but it's good fun nonetheless.

- Jake


c 2008 Alternative 007