Saturday, January 29, 2011

Review – For Your Eyes Only

January 29, 2011

For Your Eyes Only – UK, 1981

There’s something not right with the twelfth James Bond film. Perhaps it’s the ill-advised way it begins - with the brief return of a character most Bond fans likely assumed was dead. Maybe it’s the film’s convoluted plot, which involves the potential theft of a device that enables the British government to communicate with Royal Navy submarines. I say potential theft because the device has not yet been stolen. It’s lying somewhere at the bottom of the ocean, which makes the actions of the terrorists who are trying to find it and sell it rather confounding. Instead of murdering people working with the British government to find it, wouldn’t it have been better to monitor them? After all, the more eyes involved in the search, the more sea floor that can be covered. Perhaps it’s the odd lack of chemistry between Bond (Roger Moore) and the film’s female protagonist, Melina (Carole Bouquet). At one point, a carriage driver watches the way the two of them are talking and declares “Amore, amore.” How he got that from a conversation about revenge and her going back to her hotel room to be safe I don’t know.

Perhaps there are just too many of those incredulous Bond moments – you know, the kind that make you want to slap your forehead in amazement at the stupidity of either the characters on the screen in front of you or the writers whose words made them do or say such ridiculous things. In For Your Eyes Only, hit men have clear shots at Bond and don’t take them, only to be trying like mad later to make those shots. One particular henchman, a German biathlete named Eric Kriegler (John Wyman), is established early on as an expert marksman and then later can hit everything but Bond. Maybe it’s the unintentionally humorous sight of motorcycles with spikes on their wheels going down ski slopes in pursuit of Bond, who is suddenly a skier of Olympic-quality. In one scene, he goes off a ramp and before he makes a perfect landing has not only completed a full twist but also used the twirling skis to knock the gun out of the hands of one on the men chasing him. Who knew Bond had such skill?

Maybe it’s the poorly-done MTV-style opening credits, during which we see Sheena Easton lip-synching the film’s theme song, appropriately titled “For Your Eyes Only,” or the way the camera gives viewers an odd close-up of her lipstick-covered lips during the number. If you want to know when a supposedly romantic scene has begun, just listen for the start of the instrumental version of Easton’s little ditty. It could be the fact that the film’s most impressively choreographed action scene goes on far too long and resolves nothing. Bond is not captured, and the main henchmen escape unscathed, thereby ensuring that the plot does not advance whatsoever. Or perhaps it’s the scene at an ice skating rink that follows this one, in which Bond is set upon by a bunch of goons in ice hockey gear and an electronic scoreboard goes off every time Bond knocks one of them out. Maybe it’s the sudden appearance of a deep sea diver in a suit that bares a striking resemblance to the robot in 1979’s The Back Hole or the sudden superhuman qualities of Kriegler, which are too far too reminiscent of those of Oddjob from Goldfinger. Or maybe it’s the way the film ends by parodying a then-current political figure, something more characteristic of a film with Frank Drebin in it than James Bond.

For Your Eyes Only works slightly better than the previous Bond film Moonraker, primarily because it places Bond in a much more realistic adventure. Instead of undetected shuttle launches and plots involving eugenics and the creation of a master race, it has a more conventional story for a spy film. A valuable piece of technology must be retrieved so that it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. To prevent the British from finding it before they do, the villains after it murder two people, a move that buys them some time but also sets the murdered man’s surviving daughter after them. Therefore, we have a spy thriller combined with a revenge film, as Bond and the daughter join forces. The film also revives the Cold War subtext of earlier films, which makes the film much more relevant to its time than some of the previous Roger Moore Bond films. It all sounds promising; however, the film just never really gets going. There are two rather unnecessary characters and one of those “now you will die Bond” moments that will make viewers scratch their heads in bewilderment. I guess villains simply taste better than heroes. And what’s with every Bond villain living in either a castle high atop a mountain or a secret underground lair? I know these give us pursuits on skis, daring mountain climbs, and chairs suddenly descending to secret rooms, but just once I’d like to see a villain residing on the second floor of a ten-storey building. Their success rate would probably double. (on DVD)

2 and a half stars


Sandra said...

Do you feel like watching the Bond films is an unpleasant chore or do you expect to see anything improve as you get through the rest of the films?

Azrael Bigler said...

I expect to see improvements. I'm a bit of an optimist in this. If not, there'd be no reason to keep watching them.