Saturday, March 31, 2012

"For Your Eyes Only" (1981)

Starring Roger Moore, Julian Glover and Carole Bouquet
Written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson
Directed by John Glen
Rated PG - Violence, sex
Running Time: 127 Minutes

A British spy boat carrying a special missile targeting computer is sunk.  The British government hires a marine archaeologist named Havelock to locate it, but Havelock (Jack Hedley) and his wife are murdered by a Cuban hitman named Gonzalez (Stephan Kalipha).  James Bond (Roger Moore) is assigned to track down Gonzalez and then find the sunken boat before the Russians can get their hands on the technology within.

Before he can question Gonzalez, the hitman is murdered by Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), out for revenge for the murder of her parents.  Bond and Melina escape from Gonzalez' men, but Bond is out of leads until he identifies a guest at Gonzalez' compound - another hitman named Locque (Michael Gothard).  Tracking Locque, Bond travels to Italy where he meets a man named Kristatos (Julian Glover) who has information about Locque's plans and associates.

But Bond suspects something more is afoot when Melina arrives in Italy as well, claiming to have received a telegraph from Bond asking to meet him.  With KGB assassins on their trail, Bond and Melina must figure out who they can trust, find the sunken ship and retrieve the missing computer.

"For Your Eyes Only" is a welcome change of pace for the Roger Moore era of Bond films.  After "Moonraker," the producers made a conscious decision to make a film that was more grounded in reality, far less ridiculous or comedic, and thankfully, they succeed.

While Roger Moore's advancing age is problematic for the film, the script is pretty sharp and there are a number of solidly thrilling action sequences to move things along.  The film opens with Bond visiting the grave of his wife and having one last encounter with Ernst Stavro Blofeld, his nemesis and head of SPECTRE. The film mostly eschews large gun battles in favor of chases and hand-to-hand combat, with great sequences like a car chase through the hills of Spain, Bond evading assassins on motorbikes in the mountains of Italy, and even an underwater battle with diving suits, all culminating in a mountaintop fight in a converted church.

"For Your Eyes Only" also mostly ignores Bond's legendary gadgetry.  Indeed, during the escape sequence in Spain, Bond's tricked-out Lotus explodes when henchmen attempt to break into it, forcing Bond to escape in a crappy Citroen.  Bond himself is a bit more serious, as well, rather different from Roger Moore's usual characterization.  In one scene, he kicks an enemy off a cliff in cold blood, and it's one of the few moments I've ever felt that Moore really nails it.  His Bond is really just too soft for my tastes, but this film is a bit different.

The only real source of annoyance in "For Your Eyes Only" is a teenage ice skating prodigy named Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson) who becomes enamored of Bond.  Her voice and dialogue are equally annoying, and she sucks the life right out of every scene she's in.  Thankfully, she's not in too many of them, and Bond can get around to doing the things we want to see him doing: kicking ass.  Other than that, though, she's a minor problem in a slick, compelling film.

This film is one of the best of the Roger Moore era of James Bond films.  It's stripped down from a lot of the usual trappings of the series, but all the better for it.

See Also
James Bond