Directed by John Glen (Directorial Debut)
A British surveillance vessel accidentally gets struck by a mine and now James Bond (Roger Moore) must locate the sunken the sunken ship in order to make sure the top-secret Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator (ATAC) system on board does not fall into the wrong hands.
Before I get too into this, one thing I have to discuss is the opening scene. There is an existing fan theory going around that not only is 007 a codename but that James Bond is also a codename/title since Bond has been played by several different actors. It is a ridiculous theory only embraced by people with a casual association to the films. The opening scene should be strong evidence against that theory. In the scene Bond goes and visits the grave of his wife that died in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Why would a different agent go and visit the grave of someone he did not know? And why would Blofeld (it being him is implied but he’s not named) attempt to kill James Bond if he was a different agent in revenge for what happened in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service? Why not track down the actual agent and not his successor? In the world of fan theories this is among the dumbest. It has been the same character portrayed by several actors. The only time it becomes a new character is when Daniel Craig takes over because Casino Royale was a reboot.
“For Your Eyes Only” as sung by Sheena Easton is amazing. I remember how huge of a hit it was at the time. It was insane. Easton holds the distinction of being the first Bond title artist to appear onscreen.
What this film lacks are the usual Bond film quirks. There are not really any interesting henchmen for the villain to use. Nobody really pops out as odd. Bond uses no special gadgets as his only real one gets blown up early and the villain’s plot is not really world threatening. While the ATAC could be used to make the British attack themselves, in the world of Bond it seemed unlikely that those Soviets would do such a thing. These were all purposeful decisions to make For Your Eyes Only a more realistic film after Moonraker and turn it more into a Cold War thriller than anything.
I applaud their goals but not the execution. It attempts to be more serious than its predecessors of the Roger Moore era. Confusingly they toss in plenty of the lighter aspects that the Roger Moore films were known for and that creates a bit of a mixed bag.
James Bond’s only real gadget in this whole film is a tricked-out Lotus as part of his package to go after Cuban hitman Hector Gonzales (Stefan Kalipha) that killed Sir Timothy Havelock (Jack Hedley) and his wife Iona (Toby Robins). In fact, it’s the only thing he really gets, and it’s promptly blown up as a signal to the audience that this is a different type of Bond film that won’t be using cool gadgets. Really?!
At least one theme in the film is supposedly revenge and its effects on a person. Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) is the daughter of the killed British agent. For me she never quite pulled that off. There’s no slow decay of the character or the apparent effects on her as she seeks revenge on those that murdered her parents. The character is just angry, and Bouquet is a bit wooden in her performance. Melina Havelock was a two-dimensional Bond Girl and unfortunately her presence took up a great deal of the movie. It did not feel as if she had any clear character growth. One minute she was angry over mom and dad and then at the end she was not and just having a nice time on the family yacht. No moment of change can be pointed too.
Topol as Milos Columbo honestly steals the show in his scenes. He is much more of a character than any of the other characters in the film and even upstages Roger Moore at times.
The action is the usual good James Bond action. One that stands out in a negative way though is a chase early in the movie. In a film that is supposed to be more serious it felt a little too slapstick. When Bond first meets Melina he loses his Lotus to an antitheft device that exploded on purpose and so Bond and Melina must use her car to escape. It has the usual comedic leanings of other bond Roger Moore Bond film chases but in a film that is supposed to be more serious it’s very out of place.
And another thing, how does that subplot with the overly horny gymnast Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson) sponsored by the real villain Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover) fit in to a more serious Bond film? The interactions between Bibi and Bond are all awkward moments and in sharp contrast to the supposed tone of the film. Other than making Bond uncomfortable, her character serves no real purpose to the plot. She could have been cut from the final script and no one would have noticed. Her character is just padding.
It is just not my favorite Bond film. Still though it is an enjoyable film and you will like it if you like James Bond.