UK / USA, 1981
Review by Rich Watts
Posted on 19 March 2005
Source MGM DVD (R2)
Features: The Genealogy of James Bond
Following the near science-fiction posturing of Moonraker, Roger Moore’s fifth outing as James Bond brings 007 back down to earth with a bump. Stripped of his gadgets and reliant upon his ingenuity and wit alone, Bond battles against a ruthless tycoon looking to get his hands on the ATAC machine which controls Britain’s nuclear submarines, moving the super spy through the bays of the Mediterranean and the ski-slopes of Northern Italy to a vertiginous finale on top of the Greek Pindus mountains.
James Bond without gadgets seems a strange proposition. Though the decision to rein in the gadgetry and stylistic excesses of Moonraker is the correct one, it is equally important to have something ready as a replacement. Unfortunately, For Your Eyes Only seems to be unsure of what it is trying to achieve, ultimately making for a lackluster affair without any great conviction and few of the ingredients that usually make Bond tick.
Opening at the cemetery of Bond’s wife and pitting Bond against his old adversary Blofeld for a short while, For Your Eyes Only originally aims to be a thoughtful entry in the series, providing some historical context alongside Bond’s current escapades. Initially, then, it appears the budgetary restrictions are making room for overdue story integration. The remarkably disjointed 15 minutes that follow, however, soon dismiss these ideas and provide a spluttering start, the result of which is the film’s apparent lack of intent. Several moments make for unfortunate symbols of misfortune in Bond’s usually facile path: on arriving in Cuba, Bond consults a map, looking slightly lost; later, Bond’s escape car flips over during the exciting car-chase and eventually stalls whilst in the middle of the getaway. Both images represent a franchise unsure of where it is heading or how it might get someplace: not a good way to start the 1980s.
To these eyes, Moore is starting to appear a bit old, looking more like the various girls’ uncles than their charming, intimate spy. The poorly written screenplay doesn’t help, pitting him against a vivacious (and wholly inappropriate) 18-year-old ice-skater for one, and removing the natural flow and charm of the Connery years Moore had done well to continue in his previous outings. The plot is something of a no-starter, too: if a plot development depends on a parrot repeating what has been said so that others can hear it then you know you are in trouble.
Although stripped down to a reserved minimum, the various chase sequences of For Your Eyes Only are enjoyable and back at the heart of what makes Bond films tick. The car and ski chases are often innovative in their perspective, containing spinning and rolling shots, while the rock-climbing set piece leading towards the film’s climax is tense and enjoyable, causing sweaty palms for any viewer wary of great heights and providing an antecedent to Mission Impossible.
Even within the canon of Bond films, For Your Eyes Only has a ridiculously naff ending, complete with a Margaret Thatcher impersonator on the telephone to the parrot whom she thinks is Bond. It’s more Naked Gun than Bond, but the reference to Margaret Thatcher is a handy one, for it brings to mind the so-called “boom and bust” economic cycle of the 1980s. In the currency of Bond films, For Your Eyes Only was by no means a poor film, but did herald the entry of the Bond series into its recession of the 1980s films and signaled the beginning of the end of Moore’s usefulness as the super spy.