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For Your Eyes Only

April 24, 2013

For Your Eyes Only (1981)
Director: John Glen
Actors: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover


Synopsis: A British spy ship, disguised as a fishing boat, is sunk in the Ionian Sea, and with it a top-secret missile system. The British and Soviet intelligence agencies embark on a race to recover the device, and James Bond (Roger Moore) has to decide which of the two Greek criminal kingpins, Columbo (Topol) or Kristatos (Julian Glover), to side with in that quest.

Review: For Your Eyes Only was an attempt by the producers to take James Bond down a more sober route after the cartoonish, outlandish narratives of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, and, although the espionage plot itself seems eminently plausible, the picture can’t quite shake off the increasingly silly legacy which had mired the franchise in the Roger Moore era.

It’s hard to say what the worst element to the film is, but a good indicator to its general awfulness is the terrible decision to bring back Blofeld and the memory of Bond’s wife, Tracy, in a such a trite way for the pre-credits sequence. Blofeld commandeering Bond’s chopper, but then getting dropped down an industrial chimney, was an idea that should never have seen the light of day, and, incidentally, it seems as if Blofeld has picked up a nice, thick Spanish accent since the time of Diamonds are Forever. The Cortina d’Ampezzo segment of the narrative – where Bond is on the trail of the criminal, Emilio Loque – is equally silly, as director John Glen seeks to exploit its winter sports locus for a series of groan-worthy, danger-free set pieces where Bond defeats villains through a variety of alpine activities: a ski jump, the biathlon, the bobsleigh, and even an infantile sequence where he dispatches villains in ice hockey goals with the electronic scoreboard marking Bond’s ‘hits’.

Betraying the fact that Roger Moore really was becoming rather obsolete, Bond even turns down the chance to sleep with young ice-skating prodigy Bibi Dahl. If sleazy Bond is turning down sex with attractive younger women you really know something is wrong, and the moment where Bond chastises Bibi for her “fickleness” when she professes an interest for the East German biathlon star, Eric Kriegler, is unintentionally hilarious. Not only does it betray the reality that Moore is so old-fashioned and ‘fatherly’ in tone and clearly not an ethical match for Lynn-Holly Johnson, but also Bond is hardly someone who can lecture others when it comes to the “fickleness” of switching partners at the drop of the hat.

I’m not going to totally dump on For Your Eyes Only because some of the plot elements do transmit as quite taut – the assassination of the Havelocks for example – but any film that ends with the ‘comedy’ coda of Bond fielding a call from Margaret and Dennis Thatcher deserves little respect. How did the producers ever green-light this, and doesn’t it undercut even the slightly sensible, dramatic investment in the narrative before this? (April 2013)

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