Bondmania: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

For Your Eyes Only movie poster

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Among the lesser Bond movies is For Your Eyes Only. This 1981 motion picture is directed by John Glen, who’d previously worked as an editor and second unit director on some other 007 films. His first time in the saddle is a less than cohesive affair, even if its intentions are somewhat admirable.

These intentions are apparent from the pre-credits sequence, which surely must be one of the shortest and least entertaining of the bunch. The point of the sequence is to put the franchise back down to earth after the space opera that was Moonraker, so there are ties to previous pictures and even an appearance by a “bald villain in a wheelchair.” I wonder who that could be.

For Your Eyes Only gets underway with a British spy ship sunk by a naval mine. This seemingly innocuous event becomes troublesome when it turns out that the ship was carrying the Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator or ATAC, a system that coordinates the submarines for the Royal Navy. The Soviets get wind of this and race to capture it before the Brits can.

MI6 agent James Bond (Roger Moore) is put on the case. Things get tricky when a hitman gets involved and kills a “marine archeologist” tasked with finding the sunken ship. The daughter of the archeologist, Melina (Carole Bouquet), wants revenge and tracks the hitman. This puts her in the middle of the action with 007, of course.

The ATAC is naturally the film’s MacGuffin, so it stands to reason that a bunch of villains and heroes would be trying to get at it. Julian Glover plays Aristotle Kristatos, a smuggler with interests in the object. Chaim Topol is Milos Colombo, a pistachio-munching partner of Kristatos. There are some hitmen and goons as well.

The trouble is that few of the aforementioned characters are all that interesting. Even Melina, the lead Bond girl, is on the flat side for a girl motivated by revenge. Bouquet shows little to no emotion, even when her parents are ruthlessly gunned down on their yacht. The rest of the time, she hides behind her absurdly long hair and sometimes attempts a grin.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that Moore can’t drum up much of anything with the actress. This spoils the entire relationship between Bond and his squeeze and makes what’s normally a fairly tantalizing closing scene into a ball of blah. Bond’s other option is Bibi (Lynn-Holly Johnson), a figure skating sensation who sees 007 as the uncle figure she’d love to Lutz.

Moore’s portrayal of Bond is less confident. He seems to once again nod back to Sean Connery too much and his English gentleman routine falters. This is especially evident when he boots a helpless villain off a cliff. It was a scene that Moore initially had trouble with and for good reason, as it doesn’t seem to suit his vision of the character.

Glen’s push away from the gadgetry of previous Bond movies really needs more than what For Your Eyes Only has to offer. With uninteresting villains, a nonexistent sexual side and a distracted Moore to contend with, the movie’s sense of fun is mostly lacking.

There are no elaborate sets, in part due to the absence of Ken Adam. Production design was instead handled by Peter Lamont, an art department stalwart in the franchise. Lamont’s work means that the big hideout turns out to be a monastery and Bond’s car gets blown up early on. This modest approach is admirable but out-of-place.

What we end up with is a Bond flick that is in no man’s land, unfortunately. While some of Glen’s first kick at the can is commendable, most of For Your Eyes Only feels like a wasted opportunity. By this point in the game, the best that can be said about the 007 series is that it shows up.

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