Friday, 10 May 2013
For Your Eyes Only (1981)
There are two schools of thought on the correct approach to making a Bond movie. One school holds that it is desirable to keep as close as possible to the spirit of Ian Fleming’s novels. This requires a fairly realistic approach and it requires Bond to be a fairly hard-edged character.
The second school holds that Bond movies are pure escapist fun and the sillier and campier they are the better.
I’ve always preferred the second approach, although it has to be said that the first approach has something to be said for it.
The Roger Moore Bond films tended to stick to the second approach which reached a climax with the gleefully outrageous Moonraker in 1979. When it came to the next movie in the series for some reason it seemed to have been decided to go for the first option. For Your Eyes Only is the most serious of the Roger Moore films. There are spectacular stunts but there aren’t the outrageous gadgets and most of the action sequences are reasonably plausible.
To my way of thinking it suffers a little from the lack of a larger-than-life villain. Bond is not up against a diabolical criminal mastermind. He’s up against criminals and KGB agents. I feel that a hero of Bond’s stature really needs to be measured against a villain on an epic scale.
A British spy ship is sunk, and to the embarrassment and consternation of Her Majesty’s government a piece of very vital equipment was not destroyed before the ship sank. If it falls into the hands of the Russians it will render Britain’s main line of defence, her Polaris missile submarines, powerless. An attempt by a British archaeologist to retrieve the device fails and the archaeologist is killed. His daughter, Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) survives and vows vengeance. Melina is half-Greek and vengeance is something she takes very seriously. She will be a useful ally for 007.
Rival bands of smugglers are also interested in finding the device and one of these smugglers intends to sell it to the KGB.
The plot allows for the sorts of underwater sequences that were always a highlight of Bond films. The duel between the two midget submarines is particularly impressive. There are also some exciting action sequences set in a Greek monastery high on a rocky summit. These scenes require some rather energetic for Bond. At 53 Roger Moore was getting a bit old for this sort of thing but he does better than you might expect.
Moore accepts the challenge of playing a more serious Bond and is surprisingly convincing. He restrains his more camp impulses and plays things very straight. That’s not the way I like to see Bond played but Moore is much more successful at this than anyone would have suspected.
Carole Bouquet is a slightly bland Bond girl. Fortunately Lynn-Holly Johnson is on hand to add some spice as Bibi Dahl. She was a former champion figure skater and she plays a young skater in training for the Winter Olympics. Bibi think the best place to train is in the bedroom and she thinks Bond would make an excellent training partner. She’s funny and sexy and likeable and adds some much-needed lightness to an otherwise rather gritty movie.
Topol and Julian Glover are solid enough as the rival Greek smuggling chiefs. Bernard Lee had passed away in early 1981 so M doesn’t make an appearance this time, his place being taken (very capably) by Geoffrey Keen as the Minister of Defence. Q is still there however, as is Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny.
Director John Glen was making his first Bond movie and he handles the job extremely well. The rather long running time never drags. The action sequences are very good. A car chase in a Bond movie has to be witty as well as exciting and the one in this movie, with Bond fleeing from the bad guys in a little 2CV Citroen, qualifies on both counts.
I you like your Bond movies to be realistic spy thrillers you should love For Your Eyes Only. If like me you prefer them to be more in the mould of outrageous campy fun then you might find that one a bit of a disappointment after the glorious excessiveness of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker but it’s still fine entertainment.