So, Moonraker sure was a crazy movie, right? They went to space! They literally sent James Bond to space and had him have a laser-gun fight with some henchmen. That happened. And, surprisingly, people weren’t overly fond of it. It was a huge financial success, but things seemed to have crossed a line. Things got too wacky. And the public seemed to have agreed. So, the producers of the Bond franchise realized they needed to get things back on track. And what resulted was the most down-to-earth and gritty adventure that Roger Moore’s Bond went on. And I really don’t care for it. I know of all the blasphemous things that I’ve said during this Bondathon that this may be the most blasphemous, but For Your Eyes Only is one of my least favorite Bond movies of them all. I know people love this movie. I know they consider it to be the crowning achievement of the Moore era, and it frequently does quite well on rankings of the franchise. But to me, personally? It does nothing for me. It’s possibly the Bond film that I’ve seen the least. I really only watch it when I’m working my way through the franchise, out of duty. Because there’s really no situation I find myself in where I think to myself, “Hey, you know what would be fun? Watching For Your Eyes Only.” Which is maybe not a great way to start an article about a movie, but hopefully I can explain myself and the crimes that I’ve committed.
Because this certainly is a reactionary movie. All Bond movies really are, except maybe Dr. No. The rest of the films look at what worked and what didn’t work from the last movie, and try to improve on that. So when Moonraker came out, they realized they had a lot of work to do. This movie had been under development since The Spy Who Loved Me, and I would be fascinated to see what it would have been like after that. Because for all of its excess, The Spy Who Loved Me isn’t too insane of a movie. All of the Roger Moore films have been a little campy. They’ve been sillier than the Connery or Lazenby films were. But nothing too ridiculous. So I’m not sure if this movie would have always been this much of a pull in the other direction. But after Moonraker it became clear that something needed to be done. The Bond movies have always swung on a pendulum, getting increasingly silly before snapping back to a more gritty and dark entry. And after Moonraker they had to swing really hard. They really wanted to go Fleming for this movie, and since they were basically out of Fleming stories they had to piece together small portions of various short-stories while primarily just lifting the title. And I suppose they did succeed on that front. This is certainly the most Fleming of the Roger Moore era. But, that’s kind of why it doesn’t work for me.
For Your Eyes Only starts off with a pre-credits sequence that I almost always forget exists, with James Bond visiting the grave of Tracy, his late wife. This is spoiled when a Universal Exports helicopter arrives to pick him up, and it turns out it’s being remote controlled by a person credited as “bald villain in wheelchair,” better known as Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Blofeld tries to kill Bond, but ends up getting tossed down a chimney instead. After this we get a rather awkward credit sequence where we actually see Sheena Easton singing to us, before cutting to a British ship off the coast of Greece. This ship contains a system called ATAC which controls Britain’s nuclear arsenal. So of course this ship is attacked, and sunk, before they can destroy the ATAC system, just leaving it there to be stolen. So the hunt is on! The KGB make it clear that they’ll pay for the ATAC, and let their mysterious Greek contact. The British have also tasked an archaeologist named Havelock to find the ATAC, and it appears he has. Which obviously means it’s time for an assassin to kill Havelock and his wife, narrowly missing his daughter Melina. M fills Bond in on what’s going on, and sends him to go find Havelock’s killer, in case they got some information from him. So Bond heads to Madrid, where Havelock’s assassin lives, and tries to sneak into his compound. Bond witnesses a quiet killer named Locque giving Havelock’s assassin some money, but Bond’s caught before he can interrogate the assassin. And things are made complicated when the assassin is suddenly killed by an arrow. This gives Bond an escape route, and he flees from the compound, running into the person who fired the arrow. Melina. The two flee from the compound, getting in a ridiculous car-chase with Melina’s terrible car, before managing to escape Spain. Bond then promises to find the killer of Melina’s parents and bring them to justice.
Bond then returns to England, and with the help of silly computer program manages to find out who Locque is. He discovers the Locque has been spotted in northern Italy, and heads out to a ski-resort where he may be hidden. Bond gets there and is introduced to a Greek man named Aristotle Kristatos who regularly works with the British government. Kristatos says that Locque works for a smuggler named Columbo, who is probably behind the ATAC theft. And this certainly seems to be the case, when several goons wearing lapel pins linking them to Columbo show up and try to kill Bond, resulting in Bond going through a whole litany of winter sports, such as skiing, hockey, and bobsledding. Bond also runs into a young figure skater who is bring sponsored by Kristatos, and who immediately tries to start sleeping with Bond. Bond refuses, since she’s supposed to be a child. And after enough winter frivolities Bond head to Greece to track down Columbo, who certainly seems to be behind everything.
Bond scopes out Columbo, with Melina’s help, and ends up finding Columbo’s mistress. Bond of course seduces the woman, who tells him that Columbo is onto him. She’s then obviously killed by Locque in a dune buggy. Like you do. However, before Bond can go after Locque he’s captured by Columbo’s men, and brought to the smuggler. Where things get confusing. Turns out Columbo is a friendly and affable man who just smuggles things. He’s no master criminal. He claims that Kristatos is the real dangerous one, and he’s playing both sides against each other. Bond decides he can trust Columbo, and accompanies his soldiers on a raid of Kristatos’ heroin operation, where Bond runs back into Locque. The two get into a chase, and Bond ends up personally kicking Locque off a cliff, killing him. And once that’s taken care of Bond and Melina head back to where her father and mother died, and find the location of the ATAC. The two head down into the water, find the ship, and begin the process of removing the ATAC. They have a brief fight with one of Kristatos’ men, and then get back to the surface. Only to find Kristatos and more men waiting. Bond and Melina gets tied up and Kristatos plans on dragging them through a patch of reef, letting sharks eat them. Bond and Melina obviously escape, and watch Kristatos and the ATAC leave. Luckily though Kirstatos and his men apparently said where they’re going, and Melina’s parrot overheard and tells them. So Bond, Melina, Columbo, and some soldiers go to the cliff-side monastery that Kristatos is hiding out in. They climb up the cliff, almost get dropped, and end up infiltrating Kirstatos’ base. Bond runs back into that figure skater, and she tells them where Kristatos is hiding. So Bond and the crew chase after the man, who is ready for the KGB General Gogol to arrive and buy the ATAC. Columbo manages to knife Kristatos in the back, killing him, and Bond gets his hands on the ATAC. He then throws it right off the cliff, in front of Gogol, saving the day. Bond then goes to have sex with Melina on a boat, like usual, as we see Melina’s parrot talk with Margaret Thatcher.
Listen. I may not like this movie that much, but there are some undeniably good things about it. This is one of the most realistic and down-to-earth stories that the franchise has ever done, and is one of those rare Bond movies that actually have a plot that seems like something that could have happened in real life. I don’t think any Cold War spies had to go to space to defeat a weird billionaire’s mission of cleansing the Earth. I do think that a Cold War spy had to deal with someone trying to steal a nuclear submarine transmitter. I’m also a big fan of Kristatos as a villain, and Columbo as a side-kick. We haven’t seen many smugglers in this series yet, and I really liked it. The idea of dealing with some shady criminals who work with the government is a novel idea for the franchise, and one that worked out very well for me. Although I’m not overly fond of Carole Bouquet’s Melina. Bouquet was more of a model than an actress, and that kind of shows. Melina is sort of a wax statue of a person for most of the movie. She’s good at giving Roger Moore, a man 30 years her senior, smoldering looks, but little else. There’s also the fact that his movie is absolutely saturated with funky disco music. Bill Conti did the score for this movie, and you can really tell. The music for most of the Roger Moore era has been quite different than the Connery years, but this one has certainly aged the worst yet. A lot of this movie feels painfully 70s, which is weird since it’s from 1981. And then there’s Roger Moore.
For most of my life as a Bond fan I haven’t really enjoyed Roger Moore. My dad always held him in very low regard, so that kind of rubbed off on me. Then of course I reached that time of my life (adolescence) where I thought his comedic antics were the absolute worst. I wanted my Bond to be dark and brutal. And that sure wasn’t Roger Moore. But then things started to change. Around the same time that I started to foster an affection for Adam West’s Batman, and stopped thinking that being dark and intense was mature, I started to come around on Moore. He’s still not my favorite Bond, but he’s certainly gone up in my esteem. Especially on this go-through of the series. Roger Moore’s James Bond is certainly a different character than Sean Connery’s James Bond. Moore is a classy, witty, and quippy secret agent who focuses more on charming his opponents than beating them up. And there’s a certain charm to that that’s infected me. I’ve really enjoyed myself watching these Moore movies, seeing Roger Moore’s fun antics. And then I got to this movie. And it’s just kind of a bummer. This movie tries so incredibly hard to not be Moonraker. It wants to be everything Moonraker is not. And that resulted in this movie more or less jettisoning the fun. I could one hundred percent accept Sean Connery or Daniel Craig kicking Locque off of a cliff while he’s pleading for his life. Those actors portray a dark and more brutal James Bond, and it makes sense. But Roger Moore? It feels weird. This is a guy who went to fucking space in the last movie, and has routinely fought a giant cartoonish man with metal teeth. He shouldn’t be brutally killing people. And that’s the biggest problem I have with this movie, and the reason that this is probably the Bond movie that I’ve seen the least. It just feels wrong. And what’s weird is the fact that Moore seems utterly uncomfortable doing the dark things, and yet thrives when things get wacky. Because this movie has plenty of wacky moments. We have the sudden reappearance of “Blofeld,” a death by dune buggy, and a parrot talking to Margaret Thatcher. All things that I would normally love in a Roger Moore Bond movies. But when you think about the fact that a parrot is mocking Margaret Thatcher in the same movie that Bond brutally killed several people feels weird. Dark tones work well with the James Bond franchise, and thrived under Connery, Dalton, and Craig. These movies’ tones fitted the actors portraying the character. But I don’t think there was any way for Moore to pull this off in my opinion. Moore isn’t an intense actor. And that’s not to say he isn’t a good actor. We put too much emphasis on “good” actors doing serious work, which is a whole different topic for a different time. Moore’s strengths aren’t in intense and gritty acting. And that’s what this movie required of him, and it just seemed to radiate an uncomfortability that keeps me from enjoying this film. There’s things I like about it, but overall this movie just rubs me the wrong way. But don’t worry, things will be getting goofy again soon!
Categories: Reel Talk