For Your Eyes Only is a odd Bond film, it begins and ends with extremely Roger Moore-era humour, but has a far more serious, gadget-free core story to it. That being said the story isn’t massively interesting, but hey-ho, can’t win them all, and the main story is better than the bizarre opening sequence… Anyway, let’s take a look!
The British information gathering vessel St Georges, which holds the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC), the system used by the Ministry of Defence to communicate with and co-ordinate the Royal Navy’s fleet of Polaris submarines, is sunk after accidentally trawling an old naval mine in the Ionian Sea. MI6 agent James Bond is ordered to retrieve the ATAC before the Soviets do, though they end up being the least of his problems…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
“Don’t worry James, if you fall, I’ll catch you!”
James Bond (Roger Moore) – Agent 007 with a license to kill, finding the idea of helping to find a sunken piece of technology before the Soviets can quite novel after a recent adventure in space firing lasers.
Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) – Melina has several hobbies, including firing crossbows, travelling around in planes and getting sweet revenge.
Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover) – A smuggler who sees Britain’s ATAC system as a way to make some money off of the KGB.
Milos Columbo (Chaim Topol) – A rival smuggler of Aristotle, Milos is a more… fun-loving kind of criminal, so it’s okay for Bond to help him out.
Emile Leopold Locque (Michael Gothard) – Locque is a Belgian hitman currently under the employment of Kristatos. The fact he wears oblong-framed glasses makes him easy to spot, apparently…
Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson) – A figure skater who is being sponsored by Aristotle, and is blissfully unaware of his more shady doings, as he is unaware of her more… outgoing nature when she’s out of his sight.
Erich Kriegler (John Wyman) – An East German biathlete who is willing to give up his position in a race in order to do his other job: killing for hire. He is Kristatos’ contact to the KGB.
Q (Desmond Llewelyn) – MI6’s quartermaster, able to create all manor of amazing gadgets, plus a rather naff looking computer image program.
This is what I imagine a film adaptation of the game “Bioshock” would look like…
As I said in the opening, this is an odd film, completely against type for a Roger Moore film at its core. Gone are the megalomaniacs with the large lairs and plans for world domination via some sort of super weapon, replaced by a very Connery era storyline involving a piece of British technology potentially falling into the hands of the Soviets, and a smugglers ring that intends to do just that. Throw in a mixed message about revenge and you have a Roger Moore film with a serious edge to it, with just a few more jokey scenes sprinkled about.
Hats off to the writers for creating a Bond girl who is actually a capable and strong-willed women, and who Bond doesn’t piss about with. Melina sees her parents killed before her eyes and goes and gets revenge against those responsible, despite a warning by Bond over the futility and emptiness of revenge (which is ironic given Bond is seen enjoying getting revenge twice in this very film, but hey-ho…) She is capable with a crossbow and more than willing to kill, she even helps out in the final showdown.
There are some good set pieces in the movie too, with a long car chase sequence in Spain, a fun, if not a little weird, chase sequence in the snow featuring skiing, biathlete rifle shooting, ice-spiked motorbikes and a bobsleigh track (the second time a bobsleigh track has been used in a Bond film chase, oddly enough!) and the great end sequence with Bond climbing a shear rock-face to reach a monastery where Kristatos is hiding out and ready to do the KGB deal from, leading to a bit of a shoot-out between Kristatos’ men and Columbo’s men. Columbo is fun character, by the way. The kind of cheeky criminal you can forgive…
There is a rather vicious scene where Bond and temporary love interest Countess Lisl von Schlaf are walking on a beach until being attacked. Lisl is soon ran down by Locque, complete with her visibly hitting the wind-shield with a horrible thud sound. It leads to a satisfying, if un-Moore like scene where Bond has Locque at a disadvantage, his car dangling off the edge of the cliff, and 007 tossing the hitman’s trademark dove badge at him and then kicking the car off the cliff to the floor below. No explosions or anything, just the car hitting the ground, tumbling a bit and then Locque’s body falling out onto the rocky floor. I don’t know where these two scenes came from, but they were good, if extremely out of place.
There is also an extended underwater scene, with Bond and Melina diving down to the wreck of the St. George to retrieve the ATAC machine, having to fight off not just a guy in a large diving suit but also a guy in a small yellow sub, before surfacing and having to survive a bit of keelhauling. It’s… fine. It shouldn’t be in the bad, but it wasn’t super exciting, not that many underwater scenes are given their slow nature.
…. Seriously, what the hell?
What was that opening sequence? So it starts with Bond visiting the grave of his dead wife from all the way back in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, then getting into a helicopter that turns out is being controlled by Blofeld (who is in a wheel chair and neck-brace, for some reason…) down below on a pier. Cue Bond being thrown about as Blofeld controls the chopper through dangerous buildings all the while quipping really cheesy villain lines. Bond eventually gains control, picks the master villain up on the edge of the helicopter and dumps him into a tall chimney stack… What the hell was that? It was like they wanted to make fun of the stupid villain types that have come before as they settle into a more serious adventure, but it’s so out of nowhere and at odds with the rest of the film that it’s just… bizarre. Plus the grieving at the grave of his wife thing was out of nowhere as well, and was quite a serious thing leading into the exact opposite. By the way, this was the first case of Bond enjoying his revenge despite later criticising Melina for wanting hers, the other being his killing of Locque…
The ending is pure Moore-era cringe, with MI6 contacting Bond so Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher can congratulate him personally, but he walks away, putting his receiver in front of a nearby parrot who then says “give us a kiss, give us a kiss” in a high-pitched parroty way, which makes Thatcher all “ooh, Mr. Bond, really!” because she thinks this top secret agent would do a weird parrot voice and ask her for a kiss down the phone I guess, and for some reason Q is called an idiot as if it’s his fault for letting it happen! Ugh…. Just not good, and again completely at odds with the film we just watched!
Bibi, the girl who is very sexually active and wants to shag Bond, but the now-in-his-mid-50s 00 agent isn’t having any of it, is quite annoying. She’s not in it too much, but still…
Oh and although it’s a cliché at this point that’s just one of those things, I had to laugh at how many times people could have just killed Bond by shooting him or something, but chose not to. Bond is assaulted by a group of ice hockey players in full get up who just… bash into him until getting taken out (great plan! At least give one of them a knife or something…) and Kristatos seeing Bond and Melina board the boat he’s on tells his armed guards to tie them up and keelhaul them instead, are the two biggest ones. Again, I know it sort of has to be done, but that last one especially stood out to me…
“You won’t escape this time! I mean, if I wanted to make sure of that I should just get one of my men to shoot you, but… I’m pretty sure you won’t escape, so… Muhahaha!”
For Your Eyes Only is a strange Bond film. It’s one third Moore comedy with two-thirds Connery serious spy tale, but it does have more fun and entertaining moments than it has poor ones. Some really good set pieces and some fun new characters round out a good entry into the Bond series, even if it does suffer from a bit of an identity crisis.