For the first time in a while I can say a Bond movie is legit good. Eon Productions knew they went too far into farce with Moonraker, and this time they set out to bring Bond “back to Earth” for For Your Eyes Only.
Their efforts begin with a villain who is not set to bring about the end of the world. Instead, the McGuffin is an Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC). A device used by the Royal Navy to co-ordinate their nuclear submarines which is kept hidden on a ship disguised as a fishing vessel.
When the ship is sunk in the shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea near Greece, MI6’s connection to retrieve the ATAC is assassinated along with his wife in front of their daughter, Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet). James Bond (Roger Moore) is now sent to Greece to investigate the murders and retrieve the ATAC before the Soviet union can purchase it on the black market.
This is a set up that is somewhat similar to Dr. No‘s which is a welcomed sign of returning Bond to his roots. The film has a few gadgets, car chases, and thrills, but nothing too out of this world. Some of the credit for this direction can go to first time director John Glen who had been working behind the scenes on this series in various roles for about a decade prior. His work as a 2nd unit director on previous Bond films displayed his talents with his contributions usually being the best moments from those films.
He continues the good work here with some well thought-out and executed action; like when Bond’s Lotus Espirit Turbo
explodes is left incapacitated by a security feature, he is forced to escape using Melina’s Citroën 2CV. Our heroes are outgunned while attempting to get away in the French equivalent of a Volkswagen Beetle. Bond is forced to use his wits to get out of the situation with the result being a downright thrilling car chase. No silly flips, slide whistles, or pigeon double takes.
There was also an effort to go back to the Ian Fleming novels for ideas; something that they had gotten away from in the previous few films. For Your Eyes Only is a short story, so other elements from some of his other novels like Live and Let Die were used to beef the film up.
Of course, For Your Eyes Only is not perfect. In fact, most of the film’s problems can be attributed to Moore renewing his contract. Or, more accurately, no script rewrite ordered after he renewed. For the duration of the script’s writing process, Moore was in serious talks to have The Saint return. All roads were pointing towards a new, younger actor playing Bond. When Moore decided to sign on for three more pictures instead, the script wasn’t altered.
As a result, his relationships with the “Bond girls” feel out of place at times. The young Olympic skater, Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson), who attempts to seduce Bond for a good portion of the film was originally meant to be pursuing a much younger man, not someone who in reality is 32 years her senior. Meanwhile, Melina was to be too consumed by the murder of her parents to pay attention to Bond’s advances. It is not executed very well when Moore’s take on the character was never designed to have a nuanced relationship.
This is set up during the cold open when Bond is seen placing flowers at his wife’s grave; a sign that this is a Bond who can fall in love, and not only interested in bedding the next opportunity. It is all a bit awkward as it was meant to introduce a “new Bond” to the series while tying the character to the previous films.
Now, for the continuing competition with my wife, Sarah, to guess how long it would take Bond to first get laid during each of these films. As I mentioned last week, we tweaked the rules yet again. Instead of using dice to determine the time, I used an app on my phone that selected between 15 and 25 mins. This window of 10 minutes is when Bond usually succeeds in scoring with a lady.
The app chose the number 25, which made the decision of “over” or “under” simple for me. I guessed Bond would easily take less than 25 minutes. I knew I was in trouble when the cold open showed him placing flowers at his dead wife’s grave. He took the 1 hour and 20 mins.
Point goes to Sarah… once again:
Sarah – 7
Mars – 1
For Your Eyes Only is a quality Bond flick that represents an end to the “self parody” era which had run its course by this time. It is too bad time wasn’t taken to tweak the script so the film could better fit Moore’s Bond, but you have to give him credit for pulling off a solid effort in spite of it. If the goal was to bring Bond back to earth, with John Glen’s humble action sequences, For Your Eyes Only does just that.
*On a side note, one of my favourite parts of doing this series was to put together all of the images from the different promotional posters from across the world. I found it fascinating to see how different regions chose to sell Bond. I’m sad to report that from here on in, as a result of Eon Productions wanting full control of the branding, the images have become homogenized. As iconic as the “Legs” are for For Your Eyes Only, it would have been fun to see what others came up with.