For Your Eyes Only stars Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, and Julian Glover and was directed by John Glen. Based on two short stories by Ian Fleming, it focuses on James Bond, played by Roger Moore, as he attempts to find a missing British missile command system before the Soviets do.
For Your Eyes Only is one of the stranger films in the Bond franchise for me. Not cause anything too crazy happens (though there are definitely a few absurd sequences), but rather how out-of-step it feels with pretty much everything that came before it. Maybe that shouldn’t seem overly strange, considering how inconsistent the franchise has always been, but this movie in particular has always stuck out to meÖ and not exactly in a good way. I can see what they were attempting to do with this movie: it was supposed to be a course correction for the franchise. Ever since Roger Moore had come onto the scene as Bond, things had taken a turn towards the excessively goofy. This was partly to play up Moore’s inherent humor and partly just a product of the time, but the series was quickly drifting away from its more-serious espionage roots. And this drift reached its peak with the incredibly silly and over-the-top ridiculousness of Moonraker.
Despite being the most financially successful film in the franchise until Pierce Brosnan’s introduction in GoldenEye, Moonraker was divisive and I think a lot of Bond fans felt a bit alienated by it. So, this follow-up was incredibly important for determining the trajectory of the franchise. If they had stuck to the incredibly goofy route, I think they would’ve had a few more box office successes before the franchise eventually fizzled out. Instead, I think they made the correct choice in trying to steer things back to reasonableness, to keep the franchise viable and not just viewed as a joke. Unfortunately, they just didn’t do a very good job with that redirect.
They overcorrected with regard to certain elements, like the story, and undercorrected for some of the more ridiculous moments in the film, like the very strange cold opening with Blofeld. Again, weird and random moments aren’t that unusual for this franchise. We’ve had several films before this one that went off on strange, extended story tangents. I mean, just look at the whole ninja school thing in You Only Live Twice. But, even with those unnecessary sequences, those movies still felt like they were moving towards an end-point in a way that you could easily follow. For Your Eyes Only fails miserably at that.
It’s got easily the least cohesive story in the franchise up to this point and possibly the least cohesive in the franchise as a whole. The issue doesn’t just lie with the fact that the film feels very disjointed, but also with the incredible thinness of the plot that’s trying to link those sequences. I’ve watched this movie a handful of times before and even though I literally just watched it again, I really don’t think I could give a plot synopsis for this film. The whole thing just feels like this random collection of scenes without any real connection or motivation driving the story forward. Now that’s obviously a big issue and could’ve absolutely destroyed this movie. But luckily, some of those disjointed sequences were actually pretty good.
I didn’t necessarily understand why they were happening or how they fit into the story, but they kept things interesting for me. It’s got a stupid, but very entertaining car chase, another chase sequence involving just about every Olympic winter sport besides curling (complete with another beach wine guy cameo), and an underwater scuba robot-man fight. And then it’s got some more serious action moments too, like a high-stakes, semi-dramatic boat dragging sequence that still makes me wince in pain and a genuinely stressful and well-edited cliff climbing scene. Again, I couldn’t really tell you why any of this stuff was happening, but it was enjoyable to watch. I think it’s now safe to assume that any Bond film with extended underwater sequences is gonna be at the bottom of the pile for me. While I can’t place all the blame on the underwater stuff this time around.
For Your Eyes Only comes dangerously close to reaching the disappointing depths of Thunderball for me. Luckily, a series of seemingly random action set-pieces serve as a lifejacket and help to keep this one afloat. Alright let’s talk about the pros and cons. The only real pro for me is a handful of very enjoyable sequences. They’re almost exclusively action sequences, but there’s a mix of action-comedy and action-action. Despite the intended course correction of this film, the comedic moments are pretty ridiculous. Extremely entertaining, but ridiculous.
Probably my favorite sequence in the whole movie is the winter sport menagerie. It nonsensically has Bond going from one extreme sport to the next for no real reason. There’s downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, biathalon, ski jumping, bobsledding, hockey. All the while, Bond’s being chased by guys on ice-racing motorcycles. It’s ridiculous, but does make you temporarily forget about how weak the story is. On the con side, the biggest issue here should come as no surprise to you: the story. It’s not that the story’s bad, it’s just close to non-existent.
You get pieces of the plot here and there that sorta start to build a coherent story, but then the movie jumps to an entirely new location with new characters who have no clear connection to the story that had been building. So they seem very random and even by the end, when the connections get revealed, they still seem pretty random cause the plotlines tying them together are just so paper thin. The second con has gotta be the title sequence. For the most part, I’m usually pretty apathetic about the title sequences, but this one needs to be mentioned cause it’s awful. To start, Sheena Easton’s theme song is easily one of my least favorite Bond themes. And it’s so disappointing cause Blondie was originally supposed to do it and their song, which they ended up releasing on their next album, was so much better. But beyond the music, the visuals of the title sequence were also pretty terrible.
It was weird enough actually seeing Easton singing the song, but the constant overlaid and angled close-ups of her face felt like something out of a crappy 80s music video. Thankfully, this was the only time a Bond title sequence actually featured the singer. I’m gonna give For Your Eyes Only 2.5 out of 5 paws. And it’s a very low 2.5. It’s the first true disappointment in the Moore-era, but despite its incomprehensible story, it’s got some pretty entertaining action sequences. I would recommend For Your Eyes Only to Bond franchise completionists. This is one of the rare Bond films that I don’t think has much of its own identity. Other than a few good action set pieces, there’s not much that stands out about this film. Even the Bond films that I like less than this one have unique qualities that I think could be appealing to people.
This one just kind of exists. If you liked For Your Eyes Only, I would recommend the 4th Bond movie, Thunderball. That one has the most extensive underwater sequences in the franchise, so if you liked that here, I think you might enjoy that one too. I will say though that Thunderball’s underwater stuff is quite a bit longer, far murkier, and a bit less exciting. If you liked the winter sports sequence here, you might want to check out the 6th Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for another good ski chase that somehow also culminates in a bobsled chase. For Your Eyes Only also begins with one of the franchise’s only references to the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, so there’s a bit of a connection there too. And if you enjoyed the cliff sequence here, I’ve gotta recommend Mission: Impossible ñ Fallout.
I know I’m jumping spy franchises here, but Fallout’s got a tense sequence that’s fairly reminiscent of the cliff scene. Not to mention another two hours of awesome action. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen For Your Eyes Only? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What movie features your favorite rock climbing sequence? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.