Director: John Glen
Cast: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Chaim Topol, Julian Glover, Lynn-Holly Johnson, Michael Gothard, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Cassandra Harris, John Wyman, Walter Gotell
Plot: A British naval ship using the sophisticated British ATAC system crashes, the Russians race to find it before the Brits recover it, throwing Bond (Moore) into a deadly arms deal.
Out of all of the James Bond movies, For Your Eyes Only is one of the most forgettable ones. It lacks the niche quirk that most other Bond movies have (a Golden Gun, Bond fighting in Space, a volcano lair), so it never really sticks in the memory as much as some of the other entries in this amazing franchise. Over time, forgettable has seemed to equal bad, which is a shame, because watching this movie again for the first time in ages brought some impressive set-pieces to my attention that I never truly appreciated before. This movie is not as bad as you remember.
First, let’s summarise the plot. There is quite a lengthy opening to this one, but it helps lay everything out onto the table, so when the action later starts, we don’t need to keep breaking away for more exposition. The British are pretty excited about their new automated targeting system, the ATAC, which allows them to pretty much dominate the seas. However, something causes the ship to sink and the ATAC is lost in the wreckage. Worried that the enemy will get their hands on this device and use it to tell their own ships to attack each other (exactly what MI6 did to their enemies in Spy Who Loved Me – read into that how you will), they ask a marine archaeologist to try and locate the wreckage. However, that archaeologist is promptly killed, telling MI6 that the wreckage was not an accident, but someone is desperately trying to get their hands on the ATAC, hoping to sell it to the Russian’s General Gogol, back on firm villain duties in this Bond instalment. This calls for a certain secret agent to be sent after the archaeologist’s assassin, making his path cross with the daughter of the murdered archaeologist, who wants revenge on whoever is after the ATAC, a vendetta that could jeopardise Bond’s investigation.
There is quite a lot to like about ‘For Your Eyes Only’. For a start, the scenery really is gorgeous, something I was too young to admire when I first watched this. The underwater scenes are gorgeous, Greece always looks excellent and the finale picks a great location to film. The characters are also a lot of fun. Melina Havelock is actually one of the better Bond girls; it makes sense for her to be in the story, as she has her own vendetta and could easily be taking part in her own crossover movie that happens to tie in with Bond. It makes Havelock feel much more independent, as she is more than a side-kick; she just happens to be fighting alongside 007 for this particular moment in time. Columbo, or the Dove, as he is mysteriously called is a great figure and Chaim Topol has fun with the pistachio-chewing, fast-talking Greek, coming across as a foreign Harrison Ford, easily meeting Bond punch for punch. Julian Glover is the star power here, Kristatos coming across as more than your typical informant character. The movie is tied together with some great moments as well. The middle act shows Bond try and outwit Belgian gangster, Locque, and German muscle, Kriegler, during some Winter sports sequences. It is fun, inventive and always exciting. The rock-climbing scene as Bond slowly makes his way up to St. Cyril’s was also an unexpected pleasure. It is slower action, always dripping with tension and it shows maturity in the writers that they are confident enough to slow the action right down to give us an ending that is a little different than most other Bonds. Ironically, despite complaining about Moore’s slapstick interpretation of Bond, one of the best moments is the wacky car chase at the start, when Bond realises his getaway vehicle is a Citroen 2CV. It is clever, as the car chase isn’t just ‘my car is better than your car’, but Bond needs to fall back on his agent smarts to make it out of the chase alive. It adds a fresh dynamic to a routine staple of the Bond movie and I enjoyed it a lot more than most of the other efforts in the last few Bonds.
Then why does this movie get so much hate? Again, I think that it is all to do with the forgettable nature of ‘For Your Eyes Only’. Once again, Bond is held back by the routine. There isn’t anything new here to relish. There is an international threat, a mildly interesting villain and some beautiful women. Roger Moore’s Bonds are starting to look very machine-made, the relationship between Havelock and Bond coming across as an inevitable coming together rather than a natural piece of characterisation, which results in one of the better Bond girls getting lost in the history books. Therefore, seeing as no one remembers the good bits, the bad bits are the things that stick out in the memory. The opening sequence is awful and pointless, dragging an iconic character through the dirt. The ending (after the mountain climb), is dull and predictable, Glen tying up the movie, rather than trying to be entertaining. In a week’s time, I will probably forget liking this as much as I did and never get around to watching it again. This is a shame, because there are little details that everyone else is missing out on by not taking the time to watch this movie. Charles Dance features briefly as a random bad guy for Bond to beat up and one of the extras is involved in a nip-slip, which is hilarious for this PG entry into the Bond franchise. Pause button at the ready, people!
Final Verdict: For Your Eyes Only is nowhere near as bad as you remember, but it still suffers from a lack of imagination. It does the job; little more.