James Bond may be undergoing a reset this week, but we’re not, 007(x3) Weeks of 007 is continuing with “For Your Eyes Only” and the back half of Roger Moore’s run as everyone’s favorite secret agent.
Last week we talked about “Moonraker” which, as much as I may like it, sends James Bond to space, something more than slightly ludicrous. That means that with “For Your Eyes Only” it is time for the series to dial it back a notch, and it does just that.
Famously, “FYEO” offers a pre-title sequence in which Bond dumps a bald man with a white cat down a smokestack, presumably killing him forever. Due to legal reasons, the film couldn’t call this individual Blofeld (legal reasons happily since resolved which means that we can get “Spectre” later this year). We are, however, to understand him to be Blofeld and here he is, finally killed. Can you imagine a better way of saying that you’re going back to the beginning with James Bond than killing this guy who had been his filmic nemesis for nearly 20 years?
Sure, Blofeld wasn’t in any of the Moore movies (again, legal reasons), but when you look at the plots Moore’s Bond deals with, from energy devices to starting a war to killing off humanity, they tend to feel like SPECTRE plots, Blofeld plots. “FYEO” tells us right up front that it isn’t going to go there, that it is, for now, done with such things. So, boom, Blofeld’s dead and the movie can begin in earnest.
There is no world-destroying plot in “FYEO.” There is no super-villain. There is no massive lair and a huge battle between tons of folks to end it all. It actually has some elements quite similar to “From Russia with Love,” which is the least bombastic of the Connery films. The story is about an attempt to regain control of a missile command system that has been taken from a sunken British spy boat, and rather than SPECTRE pulling the strings, it is a smuggler.
Do not believe though that just because this film is a reset plot-wise that it doesn’t have some great action moments. Oh no, there are really great things going on here. First and foremost among these is the ski chase. We have seen Moore’s Bond do boring to mediocre ski stuff before, but here what he get is outstanding. It is a long sequence, features some flips, a trip off a ski jump, and going down a bobsled run. It is truly a tremendous set piece. Not only that, but it isn’t played for laughs in the way that so many Moore moments are (I shudder to think about what’s coming down the line in a couple weeks).
Frankly, I also love the mountaineering here. No, it isn’t very a big sequence, but Moore going up the rock face at the end of the movie and facing off against the gunman who would knock him off the mountain harkens back to old Bond in a way that too many Moore films miss.
I also love Carol Bouquet’s Melina Havelock. Her use of the crossbow is tremendous. It recalls Tilly Masterson’s inability to shoot a gun in “Goldfinger,” especially with both characters’ desires for revenge due to the death of a family member (or two), but here it is reformulated for a story taking place more than 15 years later, and Havelock is way better at wielding her chosen weapon than Masterson is with hers. In fact, Havelock’s crossbow is pivotal for the film and (as an aside) helps create one of the best James Bond posters ever.
I know I mentioned this briefly last week, but it bears repeating. Here we are, the 12th James Bond movie and the first one without Bernard Lee as M. He passed away before his scenes were shot and was not replaced with a new M. We will get that next week as Robert Brown steps into the role, one which he’ll hold until “The Evil Queen of Numbers” appears in 1995’s “GoldenEye.” The movie gets by without M—the excuse made is that he’s on leave—but it still feels weird to watch a Bond movie without one.
You know what I really don’t get though—and I’ll end after this observation—why does MI6 keep trying to talk to Bond and congratulate him after he finishes a mission? By “For Your Eyes Only” the joke is really old. A Margaret Thatcher impersonator plays better than Q’s awful, “It looks like he’s attempting reentry” line from “Moonraker,” but it is a trope of the Moore era I could do without.
And now there are but two films left in the Moore era now. Next week we’ll tackle the first of them as Maud Adams makes her second appearance opposite Mr. Bond. 007(x3) Weeks of 007 will return with “Octopussy.”
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment