With For Your Eyes Only, the James Bond series sought to do a reset after the utterly outlandish and frankly mess of a film that was Moonraker. While they definitely achieved their goal of crafting perhaps the most grounded and real Bond story in years, their success in also creating an entertaining and engaging movie was more hit or miss.
After the fanciful and jump the shark nature of Moonraker, it was a welcome shift to see For Your Eyes Only turn to a more classic Bond tale. Indeed particular inspiration seems to have been pulled from prior Bond movies From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The key difference though is that so much of the fun and enjoyment of those prior films seems to have been lost along the way.
Throughout the Roger Moore era there have been struggles with a consistent level of quality, but also of a sense of fun to the proceedings. Despite being utterly absurd for example, Moonraker is, on the whole, largely plodding and uneventful. It is a curse that is carried over for large chunks of this movie as well.
A sort of “this is all fine enough” feeling takes hold and permeates so much of what you end up watching. Yet again, I will say that Roger Moore’s cool indifference and witty one-liners can veer very quickly into bored performances. While I largely don’t think that occurs here – this is probably Moore’s best performance in the series after Live and Let Die and Spy Who Loved Me – the warning is still the same.
Melina is a promising enough ally for Bond in the movie and the exploration of vengeance and its toll is interesting, even if they never really fully explore it. What’s more, the understated and even paternal bond that James and Melina have throughout much of this movie works wonders in exploring a vastly different side of 007’s character. I love so many of their quiet scenes together and it makes sense that Melina would seek out this father figure side of James in the wake of her own parents’ murder.
Of course, so much of this is undone by the abrupt and sudden scene of them together at the end of the movie that has little to no build up from what we’ve seen before. It’s all the more disappointing because this is possibly the least sexual we’ve maybe ever seen James be. His dynamic with Bebe is decidedly anti-romantic with him spurning even the slightest hint of romance with the far younger character and even Bond’s scenes with the Countess play out with James less as a sexual being and more of a romantic one, with Roger Moore’s chemistry with Cassandra Harris easily the best of any of his female co-stars (Editor’s Note: Save Moneypenny).
Elsewhere, the film is plagued by another recurring Moore era issue with a confused and bland set of villains. The double-crossing Ari is dampened by the fact that once his betrayal is revealed we get only one other scene of the two characters together in the rest of the film. James doesn’t even get a final face off with him, with Melina and Columbo earning those moments.
It’s particularly frustrating because I actually think Julian Glover and Moore have good chemistry with one another in the scenes where they are teamed up together and would have loved to have gotten more of them together as villain and hero.
Columbo is a colorful and goofy partner for James and I do love Moore and Topol’s chemistry and scenes together immensely, it’s just not enough to lift the movie too high.
Ultimately For Your Eyes Only is a very plodding middling movie that is helped out quite a bit by the final section of the film, once the assault on the mountaintop monsterty occurs. James’ climb to the top is probably the highlight of the whole film for me and nails a level of suspense and tension that isn’t found anywhere else and I even like the final very frantic and messy fight which feels super real in how unorganized and scattershot it is.
It’s pretty easily the mountain climbing sequence which is really the sole moment in the film that has a level of excitement and tension to it.
Possibly the most bland and easily forgettable of Roger Moore’s entire era.
Done even more dirty by the fact that he’s a secret bad guy for much of his screen time and once his true intentions are revealed he has basically no scenes with James Bond. 4/10
I mean…shoutout to Q and Bond just hanging in a dark room bantering back and forth for a while I guess, otherwise there’s not much. 5/10
For Your Eyes Only is a bit all over the place. Roger Moore actually delivers a really solid, more grounded performance that is one of the best of his run as Bond. It’s just trapped in a largely plodding and boring movie. Its villain is wasted and the movie only really sparks to life in the final 15 minutes or so.
It’s unquestionably a step in the right direction after the disaster that was Moonraker and a much needed course correction that re-established series fundamentals. It is also the face of the forgettable Bond movies of this era. It’s not bad, it’s not great, it just exists somewhere in the middle. 6/10