Wednesday, June 24, 2015

For Your Eyes Only (1981) | Story

Plot Summary

A MacGuffin goes missing and Bond has to locate it before a) the Soviets do, and b) a beautiful avenger kills everyone who knows where it is.


Moonraker was a huge financial success, but producers Cubby Broccoli and his stepson Michael G Wilson realized that there was no way to go bigger. Instead, they intentionally went smaller; back to basics. They didn't invite back Christopher Wood - the man behind the over-the-top scripts for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker - but brought back original Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum. He and Wilson worked on the story together, merging two of Fleming's short stories, "For Your Eyes Only" and "Risico."

There's no super villain in For Your Eyes Only with a mad scheme to extort money from world powers or destroy the planet. It's a simple Cold War spy tale and it is fantastic. I enjoy some of the craziness of the Moore era, but that's not the Bond I'm most interested in seeing. Give me classic, close-to-literary Bond any day.

For Your Eyes Only uses several elements right out of the short stories, like Melina and Bond's meeting as they both infiltrate a remote estate to assassinate the man who killed Melina's parents. The opening scene from "Risico" is also played out very faithfully, including Kristatos' mistaking Bond for a narcotics agent and Colombo's staging a fight with Lisl. Later, when Bond tries to get information from Lisl, he even pretends to be a writer like he does in Fleming.

My favorite Fleming homage though is pulled from the novel Live and Let Die when Bond and Melina (Solitaire in the book) are dragged behind the villain's boat as shark bait. That's a great, memorable Fleming scene and it was a shame it didn't get used in that movie.

There are some weird coincidences attached to that scene though. Like how the sharks don't really go for Bond and Melina, even though Bond is leaking blood badly. They sure do like that non-wounded guard the second he goes overboard though. And is it a thing to leave your SCUBA tank at the bottom of the sea in case you need it later to get away from bad guys? I don't know anything about SCUBA. Maybe that's common practice.

And speaking of coincidences, how nice is it that the parrot just happened to pick up and mimic the very information that Bond needed to continue his investigation?

Those are small complaints though in my favorite Roger Moore movie. Director John Glen, freshly promoted from editor on the series, does a great job building suspense and keeping things logical. I love the way he does the sequence towards the end where Bond's hanging on a cliff face as a bad guy pounds out the pitons keeping Bond there. Each time a piton is removed, Glen shows the strain on the others. It makes me nervous every single time. And the underwater attacks by the JIM diving suit and mini-sub are legitimately scary thanks to weird camera angles and POV shots.

How Is the Book Different?

The movie is shockingly faithful to the short stories it's based on. I'm amazed at how seamlessly the script puts them together. "Risico" is the main plot with "For Your Eyes Only" mostly just adding complications to it. The big differences are 1) the addition of the ATAC MacGuffin and 2) Bond's relationship with Melina.

Melina is named Judy in the short story and she's horrible. She starts off all cool and tough, but falls apart at the end, not able to handle the reality of revenge because, you know, girls and feelings. Melina is amazing and badass to the very end. There's a question about whether or not revenge is what she needs, but I don't read that as a gender thing. It's more like a civilian thing: the same advice that Batman gives Robin in Batman Forever.

Moment That's Most Like Fleming

Fleming's Bond isn't quite as brutal as I remember him. He's actually squeamish about killing in cold blood. But he's still a much harsher character than the wise-cracking movie Bond and that's especially true compared to Roger Moore's campy version.

Except for this movie where Moore kicks Locque's car off a cliff out of revenge. That moment is right up there with Connery's "You've had your six" and it's my favorite thing Moore's Bond ever did.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming

The one goofy thing in For Your Eyes Only is that hockey fight. I like the fight itself, but it's stupid that someone's keeping score every time Bond knocks a goon into the goal. Very small potatoes compared to Pigeon Double-Take though.

Cold Open

The cold open sequence sets up the whole retro feel that FYEO is going for. It starts with Bond at Tracy's grave (which nicely has her death as the same year that OHMSS came out) and then has him picked up by a Universal Export helicopter. Unfortunately, the pilot is actually working for a wheelchair-bound Blofeld.

Because Kevin McClory owned the rights to Blofeld and SPECTRE, neither is mentioned by name, but it's clearly Bond's arch-enemy complete with bald head and white cat. Incidentally, Blofeld's body is played by John Hollis; better known as Lobot from The Empire Strikes Back. His voice is Robert Rietty, who also dubbed Emilio Largo in Thunderball.

The FYEO teaser has a stunt, but it's way toned down from the parachute sequences of Spy and Moonraker. Bond has to climb out of the back of a helicopter and work his way to the front while in flight, so it's still pretty exciting, but the most memorable parts of the sequence are the references to Bond's past.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. The Spy Who Loved Me
2. Moonraker
3. Thunderball
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. Goldfinger
6. The Man with the Golden Gun
7. For Your Eyes Only
8. From Russia With Love
9. Diamonds Are Forever
10. You Only Live Twice

Movie Series Continuity

For Your Eyes Only may have a deliberately retro feel, but it doesn't go after nostalgia as desperately as On Her Majesty's Secret Service did. At least, not after the opening credits. One major callback to early days though is that Bond's hat rack trick is back. I'd forgotten how much I missed it. Another is a scene where Roger Moore plays baccarat, which makes me realize that we didn't get a lot of card playing from Moore.

Most of the continuity though is with the other Moore films. The Minister of Defense has returned to represent the Establishment that Bond's working for and Gogol is also back. His first scene is even in the same office where he briefed Amasova in The Spy Who Loved Me.

A less welcome bit is when the Cuban assassin identifies Bond as a Double-O agent simply by looking at his gun. And even worse than that is Q's yet again going into the field, but not even to deliver equipment. He simply shows up undercover as a priest to receive some intelligence from Bond. That's way outside of his job description.

But most of the gags are understated compared to the last couple of movies. The Italian wine guy from Spy and Moonraker makes his final appearance on a patio during the big ski chase, but there's no looking at his bottle this time. It's just a cameo for sharp-eyed viewers. The silliest bit is when Margaret Thatcher tries to talk with Bond at the end, but actual thought went into that joke and it makes me laugh every time.

Even Know-It-All Bond is toned down. He shows a solid knowledge of wine and expresses his preference during dinner with Kristatos, but he doesn't pull out any weird, arcane knowledge the entire movie.

1 comment:

Ken O said...

I think this was my first James Bond movie. If I had seen parts of another one before this, this was the first one I ever really watched. It bounces back and forth with Dr. No as my favorite.


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