Following the crazy over the top spectacle that was Moonraker, the Bond franchise took a back to basics approach with the enjoyable no-frills adventure For Your Eyes Only.
Screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson establish an actual mystery as this is one of the few installments where Bond’s enemy isn’t readily apparent.
Both Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover, Game of Thrones) and Milos Columbo (Topol, Flash Gordon) are viable suspects, but only one is a genuine ally while the other is plotting his demise.
Bond finds a less questionable ally with the beautiful Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), who is equally interested as the same people who are searching for the device had her parents killed.
Melina proves one of the more intriguing Bond Babes as she has a purpose and isn’t featured just to fawn over Bond. Bouquet has a grace and sense of elegance other Bond actresses worked to achieve, but it’s natural for her.
The delayed payoff prevents the villain from reaching the heights all-time best Bond foes, but it’s necessary for the film’s greater good. Both Topol and Glover are exceptional performers and the film benefits greatly from two actors who more than hold their end.
In another rarity for the series, Bond pays respect to his murdered wife Tracy, which helps him further appreciate Melina’s desire to seek revenge for the men responsible for her parent’s assassinations.
This marked the first film without Bernard Lee as Bond’s superior M as he succumbed to stomach cancer before completing his scenes. Lee had been a fixture of the franchise from the start and his enjoyably gruff relationship with Bond was noticeably absent.
John Glen kicks off his five-picture directorial run on the series in solid fashion even if it’s not the most exhilarating in franchise history.
For longtime series fans, the film doesn’t get off on the best start as Bond dismissively kills off his implied hated archfoe Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who couldn’t be referred to by name thanks to a behind the scene lawsuit. Bond and his fans deserved a more fitting and less petty death for one of cinema’s most iconic villains.
The spy gadgets are shelved this time with Q (Desmond Llewelyn) essentially just making his obligatory appearance without giving 007 any special equipment to aid his mission.
Despite the absence of new playthings, Glen stages some quality action scenes while keeping Bond moving from vastly different locations. There’s a decidedly un-Bond-like car chase sequence, a thrilling bobsled chase, a beautifully staged underwater battle and a seriously death-defying mountain scaling scene.
Moore again displays his versatility in the role showing a more serious side practically devoid of the joking one-man quip machine he’d been in his three previous outings. Moore’s more entertaining in The Spy Who Loved Me, in which he had a better balance of focused, determined 007 and the playful charmer, but he shows he can handle the sterner side of Bond just as well.
The only time the film devolves to some of the lesser Bond efforts is with the introduction of Olympic skater hopeful Bibi (Lynn Holly-Johnson). Bibi proves to be one of the most annoying of Bond Babes. She’s such an annoying presence that Bond, the secret agent who attempts to nail any woman that politely smiles at him, doesn’t even want to sleep with her.
Bond does hook up with Countess Lisl (Cassandra Harris, the wife of future Bond Pierce Brosnan, whom she introduced to Bond producers during this film) in another nod to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
With longtime series composer John Barry unable to work on the film, the production shifts to a more 80s rock sound with heavy synthesizers and electric guitar riffs replacing the classy tones more commonly associated with the franchise.
Even with a runtime of just over two hours, the film never feels like it’s dragging. For Your Eyes Only [Blu-ray + DHD] is the one of the better stripped down Bond films. It’s not flashy, the villains are grounded and Moore dials down his take on 007 significantly. If you’re in the mood for a more straightforward Bond, this is one of the best offerings in the series.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Buy “For Your Eyes Only” here: For Your Eyes Only [Blu-ray + DHD]
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