James Bond Retrospective: Review of FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

This was the first Bond movie I saw in the theater.  I was about 2 months shy of turning 5.  So yes, I was 4-years old when I saw this, and I actually remember seeing it too.  The opening, the sking, the tiny yellow car, and the shark scene (which kind of scared me back then) are the things I specifically remember from my theatrical experience.  I watched this at least 20 more times growing up, but for some reason I always have tough time remembering how it ends.  It’s been probably a good 10-15 years since I actually sat down to watch this one.  After MOONRAKER yesterday, I was definitely pumped to watch Bond again.  I was also anxious to watch it cause I really wanted to find out what the climax was.  I just didn’t remember.

007 is sent to recover a secret encryption device from a sunken British naval Vessel.  Of course there are other parties after it as well, so Bond must hurry to retrieve it first.  He meets a Greek woman named Melina, who is out for revenge.  Her parents were killed, and it has something to do with Bond’s mission.  Together, they help each other out to find out just who the bad guy is.  You see, there are 2 shady characters, Kristatos and Columbo, both accusing each other for working with the Russians (remember, in the 80’s they were THE bad guys).  But yeah, the villain is Kristatos.

The pre-title sequence is on the silly side, but still kind of cool.  It has Bond visiting the grave of his wife (from ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE).  Then he boards a helicopter, only to have it taken over by Blofeld (though his name is never mentioned.  It’s him.  He has his cat and everything).  Blofeld is actually controlling the copter from a remote control nearby, while in his wheelchair.  In a rather nifty stunt, Bond climbs out of the copter’s back door, and makes his way to the front door where the controls are.  He gets control of the copter, chases Blofeld down, catches him with one of the skids, and drops him in a smokestack.  Silly, right?  But Bill Conti’s energertic, exciting and totally 80’s score makes the scene pretty awesome.  I still find myself cheering when Bond gets rid of Blofeld.  And then we’re treated with Sheena Easton singing the title track, a terrific ballad that I hope one day will be my wedding song.  Yup, I’m a big nerd!

After the high-tech, ultra tongue-in-cheek MOONRAKER, comes this stripped down thriller.  It’s pretty different for a Roger Moore bond film.  Sure, it still has its silliness, but also has a few darker elements going for it too.  Gone are the big gadgets and huge set pieces.  What we get instead are some decent car chases, fist fights, and practical stunts.  The result is a pretty satisfying Bond entry.

The movie opens with a British Ship being sunk.  It’s a pretty well done destruction sequence.  It’s followed by Melina’s parents being killed right in front of her (by an airplane with machine guns on it).  The look in her eyes as she looks at their bodies is beautifully devastating.  There’s no M this time (since Bernard Lee died during pre-production), so the Prime Minister gives him his mission.  Bond tracks down a lead, only for him to be killed by Melina.  The bad guys are after both of them, so they get into Melina’s car (after Bond’s Lotus is blown up by a self-destruct mechanism activated by the bad guys), which is a really tiny yellow car.  It’s a pretty fun car chase, as the little vehicle flips and tumbles through the segment.  The movie shifts to a Winter setting as Bond meets the villain, who is obsessed with a very young figure skater, which is kind of creepy.  There’s a good ski chase here too, possibly the best in the series thus far, as it ends on a bobsled track.  The fight in the Hockey rink is a bit too dumb, but hey, it is a Roger Moore-Bond movie I guess, so… oh well.

The second half has a memorable mini-sub vs. mini-sub battle, a fight with a man in a deep-sea diving suit (which ends with a pretty cool explosion), and a shootout aboard a ship.  All of these action sequences are solid.  My favorite scene in the whole movie though, is when Bond encounters a villain in his car that is about to fall off of a cliff.  What Bond does here is very un-Roger Moore-Like, but it’s something Daniel Craig would do.  It’s a bold move that I think pays off.  I also like the scene when Bond and Melina are tied together, and being dragged through shark-infested waters.  Then we get to the finale.  After watching this again, I realized why I can’t remember the ending.  It’s surprisingly low-key.  It’s not that it’s NOT memorable.  It’s just low-key.  There’s really no big explosions, or a fantastic end to the villain.  It does have an intense mountain climbing scene.  I also like that it’s more about Melina than Bond at the end.  She has more of a reason to kill the bad guy than Bond does.  I really liked this aspect.

He is beginning to get a little too old here, but Roger Moore still gives a fine performance as 007.  It’s not quite as jokey as MOONRAKER.  He still can deliver a dry, clever, and tasteless remark, but there’s some thing a little more gritty about him too.  His character also isn’t as much of a slut this time.  He even turns down that whore of a figure skater, which is very unlike Bond.  It’s different, but not in a bad way.  Carole Bouquet is exotic and beautiful, with her gorgeous eyes and long, jet black hair.  Her acting is fine, even though her voice appears to be dubbed.  She still has a strong presence.  Topol as Columbo is fun and has a lot of energy.  The same can’t be said of Julian Glover who plays the villain.  He just doesn’t come across as threatening.  I wouldn’t say he does a bad job, or is boring.  Just that the character is pretty generic.  nothing really stands out about him.  Bond villains are supposed to be memorable.  Kristatos is not.  Lynn-Holly Johnson (who also played a figure skater in ICE CASTLES) is kind of annoying here.  She’s definitely not sexy.  Everyone else is fine.  Also, look for Charles Dance as a henchman who barely gets to say one sentence.

John Glen (who edited a few of the Bond pictures) makes his directorial debut here.  He’s actually pretty good.  The action scenes are well shot, the pacing seems fine and he handles the actors good enough.  It definitely feels more grounded than Lewis Gilbert’s approach.  The movie has a gritty feel to it, and the screenplay is darker.  Not too dark, as there are a few opportunities for one-liners and innuendos.  John Barry was M.I.A again this time, so Bill Conti took over.  It definitely has a different feel.  If there is any score from the Bond series that shows its age, it’s this one.  It’s 80’s all the way.  Now, that can either be good or bad, however you choose to look at it.  I love cheesy 80’s scores, so I love it.  I definitely rock it on my ipod.  Though, because this film is more gritty, an old school score would have been more appropriate.  But it still has some thrilling musical cues.

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY isn’t without its problems.  It suffers from a generic villain and an annoying performance by Lynn-Holly Johnson.  But its strengths outweigh it’s faults.  I like the new (slightly) grounded approach, the darker elements and its well-executed action sequences.  Among Bond fans, it doesn’t seem to be talked about too often.  Again, it’s because it’s a bit more low-key than the others.  But that’s doesn’t mean it’s bad.  Quite the contrary, it’s a pretty good Bond entry.  I’m going to try to make a point to watch this one more often.  ★★★ (out of ★★★★)

– Rated PG but would absolutely be rated PG13 for intense sequences of violence, sensuality including a nipple slip. 

– Running time: 2hrs 7min.

Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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1 reply

  1. I agree with you about Moore starting to hit his expiration as Bond, and I found him rejecting the skater as believable, I couldn’t see Connery get into bed with her, and the ice cream line is hysterical. Melina’s eyes zoom in shot is more cheesy than beautiful to me, I think it is just a failed attempt at drama. The ski chase was the best one yet, and the hockey thing was dumb and had no purpose at all. How was the car/cliff scene which Daniel Craig would be seen more likely not like Moore? Doesn’t Moore Bond have that deadly streak in him too? I mean, he did let that bulky man drop from the rooftop terrace battle in The Spy Who Loved Me, and this guy did have to pay his dues for killing Luigi, which I am sure Bond felt guilty for and that this guy was responsible. My biggest gripe was seeing Bond stuck in the sunken ship, and yet next scene cuts to him escaping, how did he get out of being stuck? And why would the sharks go for the henchman that had just fallen in, when Bond and Melina were in the water the whole time? The ending scene was one of the funniest yet with the parrot, it goes up there with the From Russia With Love and Goldfinger ending scenes. The film meets all the Bond fan standards, and if it had more memorable characters and ending, it would probably be considered a classic.

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