In my last Bond review, I talked a bit about how the franchise seemed to be sliding into mediocrity and resorting to copying itself in order to try and recreate what made previous films so memorable. For Your Eyes Only drifts away from copying, instead trying a new plot and a new set of characters. It’s decidedly more memorable than Moonraker, though perhaps only a little bit better.
For Your Eyes Only follows Bond (played once again by Roger Moore) as he investigates a missing British spy boat. However, the KGB is also interested in this boat as it contains missile codes for the British navy’s nuclear missiles. They hire a Greek businessman with underworld connections named Aris Kristatos (Julian Glover) to retrieve the device and give it to the KGB all while Bond attempts to do the same.
This plot summary is fairly straightforward. It would suggest a more classic race-for-the-macguffin format that can be full of tension and suspense. The trouble with For Your Eyes Only is that the plot is decidedly more convoluted, oftentimes unnecessarily so. Characters flit in and out of existence so quickly that they’re barely remembered by the end of the film, and whatever role they played is so meaningless that it might as well never have happened at all. The Countess Lisl von Schlaf (Cassandra Harris), for instance, plays such a minor role that her only purpose for existing at all seems to be to sleep with Bond and make him look more intelligent with her death.
As a better example, there is a side plot, which tries to be intertwined with the main plot but never gets the momentum to do so. In this side plot, the love interest of the film, Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), is attempting to avenge her parents’ death by killing everyone responsible for their deaths. This could be an interesting story, and perhaps a fine film on its own. Instead, it appears on occasion when Bond needs a deus ex machina to rescue him from whatever problem he has only to then take backseat to Bond’s activities. It serves very little purpose, except perhaps to add a little bit of character to Melina. While character building is good, this character goes right out the window once she sleeps with Bond for no discernible reason.
The introduction of the film is also baffling, and might be analogous for the film as a whole. It opens with a character who strongly resembles Blofeld commandeering a helicopter carrying James Bond and trying to kill him. Bond in turn commandeers the helicopter and uses it to pick up the Blofeld look-alike and drop him down a chimney, killing him. What this has to do with the actual plot or who the Blofeld impersonator was is never explained. It’s a random scene that adds nothing to story, and indeed, detracts from the cohesion of the film by existing at all.
While it’s clear that the filmmakers were trying to get back to what made Bond great by following a more traditional story, the attempts to make it complex fail utterly. Instead of the tight, tense action of a film like Goldfinger, the audience is instead treated to a film that slogs along, too burdened by its own obligations to make any sense or to hold the audience’s interest. Even the complete lack of chemistry between Moore and Bouquet highlights and solidifies what makes this film a failure – the elements are there, but are so poorly executed, that they might almost be better off not having existed in the first place.
On the whole, For Your Eyes Only is a bit of a mess. It’s by no means the worst of the franchise thusfar, but it’s also a far cry from a paragon of its genre. It tries to do too much, and in trying to do so, does very little. If Moonraker was the first clear sign of mediocrity, then For Your Eyes Only is the sign that something desperately needs to be done if the franchise is to thrive and continue.Return to Bonding with Bond: Janneke Parrish Investigates an American Icon
June 24, 1981
2 hr. 7 min.
Action, Adventure, Crime
Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover