I gave FYEO a watch the other day and thought I'd share my view, if you guys want to see some other pieces I've written on some of the other Bond flicks head over here: http://thelektordevice.blogspot.co.uk/
The Plan and the Execution:
'For Your Eyes Only' is an example of a Bond film that on paper seems tantalising but in practise is actually somewhat lacking. After the bombastic 'Moonraker' the producers decided to return to earth and make a gritty Cold War thriller in the vein of the early Bond pictures such as 'From Russia With Love'. The other film on producer Albert R. Broccoli's mind was 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service', which despite being one of the least financially successful films in the series had since been gaining much acclaim for it's stripped back and character-driven approach. The ghost of 'On Her Majesty's is immediately evident from the opening shot of 'For Your Eyes Only' as we see Bond place flowers on Tracy's grave, his wife who was brutally murdered in that entry. Furthermore, 'For Your Eyes Only' follows the sixth 007 film's trajectory by hiring a former second-unit director and veteran editor of the series to tackle his directorial debut in the form of John Glen. In regards to the actual story, the last few Bond films had largely ignored Ian Fleming's source material but here there was a effort to incorporate numerous short stories and elements abandoned from previous projects. Everyone's heart seemed to be in the right place with 'For Your Eyes Only', however, the actual execution of the piece is thoroughly lacking.
By tackling a seemingly more real-world and gritty Bond adventure Glen and co. sacrificed much of the fun and excitement typically associated with the Bond pictures. Instead what we get is a film with very little wit and humour, subsequently the picture is somewhat dry and at times rather banal. Bond films typically sweep the audience off their feet and take them along for the ride regardless how obscene or ridiculous the plot or the action may be. The self-serious approach of 'For Your Eyes Only' gives the film something of a chilly feel and only makes the movie harder for the audience to engage with.
This is clear in the actual characterisation of Bond himself, the part was initially written to accommodate a new actor and as a result writers Richard Maibaum and Michael G Wilson had crafted a much colder and more ruthless character. Apparently Lewis Collins had been sought for the role and in some respects would have been a far better fit for the film then Roger Moore. The script does not give Moore his typical array of witticisms and one-liners and in the most part the actor looks uncomfortable throughout the film. I really like Roger Moore's Bond, mainly because he is so different from the rest, in particular I've always enjoyed his slightly tongue-in-cheek take on the character but here the jokes are toned down. Moore comes across as slightly portentous and self-serious and it just doesn't suit the actor at all. In 'For Your Eyes Only' Moore has little charm and mostly sleepwalks his way through the picture. The opening shot of Bond would suggest that we may be getting a more world-weary 007 but another problem is the writers inability to acknowledge Bond's age which is even more ridiculous when considering how useless Moore is in the action sequences. Roger Moore is fatally miscast in this film.
In addition, despite wanting to go down the more 'serious' route the film makes odd tonal choices. For instance we are greeted with a sober image of Bond placing flowers on his dead wife's grave. This image would seemingly be something of a mission statement for the film but only moments later we have a large-scale comic-book-y segment of Bond dropping Blofeld down a chimney which seems more like a hangover from 'Moonraker'. Also, what's up with the terrible ending?!? Why in this more 'serious' film do we have a rather cringeworthy Margaret Thatcher gag? It doesn't make sense. Even though I understand why Bond's Lotus is destroyed the actual joke of him having to drive the crummy Citoren 2CV also seems a little too broad for me. Furthermore, the actual attempts at humour throughout the film are mostly ill-judged such as the awful Bibi Dahl who is less funny and more irritating. I feel the script was just one polish away from really coming together.
The Characters of 'For Your Eyes Only':
The actual plot of the movie is relatively interesting and it's nice to get back to a more Cold War orientated story. The film also has some interesting characters for a change which vary from the typical stock Bond girls/villains that had appeared over the years. However, despite their initial setups their potential is soon squandered. Take Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet) for example, a determined and driven woman seeking revenge for her parent's murder, despite a great introduction she slowly disappears throughout the rest of the film. Instead we are left with the boring and completely unnecessary characters of Bibi and Countess Lisl Von Schlaf, neither of whom contribute anything to the plot or story whatsoever and only serve to distract from Melina's arc.
The same can be said of Kristatos (Julian Glover); in many respects I admire the film for not going down the obvious route of having an overblown megalomanic. Instead we have a more real world villain who lurks in the shadows and the film also has the balls to only reveal Kristatos's true identity rather late in the day. But when we do finally learn his identity, Glover is given very little material and considering he is the main villain of a 'Bond movie' the character is slightly bland and tasteless which further contributes to the film's rather forgettable nature.
In the most part this problem is symptomatic of the whole of 'For Your Eyes Only', which feels rather half-baked in comparison to the other Bond pictures. The film is in desperate need of something to really push it over the edge and distinguish it from any other generic action film, whether it be a large grand-scale sequence or a memorable villain, etc. Instead the film is rather flat and insipid despite it's honourable attempt to strip back the formula.
The directorial debut of John Glen:
I feel I'm doing the film a slight disservice as I did actually really enjoy it, my chief grievance is really how disappointing it is considering the actual promise of it. However, as you would expect considering Glen's background the action and chase sequences are really thrilling and excellently put together. Much of the good-will the film loses in it's saggy middle-section is mostly rectified with the film's exciting third-act. The keel-hauling sequence is pure Bond magic and the climb up St. Cyrils is a perfect example of suspenseful and tense filmmaking. For a first-time director Glen really hits it out of the park in these sections and the film is a very high watermark for all filmmakers attempting to make their debut. Maybe if more emphasis had been placed on the sequences between the action the film may have been a little more inspired.
Another aspect of Glen's direction that deserves praise is his more honest approach to violence. 'For Your Eyes Only' is a surprisingly nasty affair and there are numerous images which feel rather gruesome. This is a nice evolution for the series and shows a much grittier and more brutal side to Bond's world that was clearly in the Fleming books but mostly disregarded in the films.
On the other hand, it would seem that by focussing on the action and violence Glen has produced a rather (for lack of better word) sexless film. Both 'From Russia with Love' and 'On Her Majesty's Secret Service' had a romantic, glamorous and exotic tone, however, Glen's film is slightly more prudish in comparison. Bond's relationship with Melina is far from sexual and 007's interest in her is more avuncular then anything else so when they do kiss at the end it's uncomfortable and forced.
The overall look of the film is also rather dull and drab. The cinematography is particularly flat and uninspiring and Peter Lamont's sets, despite striving for realism, are pretty shabby and boring (his St. Cyrils hideout is also quite risible). On a slightly more positive note, I came into the film expecting to hate Bill Conti's score but actually have to admit I really enjoyed it and was still humming it after the film had finished. Furthermore, the underwater photography is really fantastic, the images are so crisp and Glen's ability to tell a coherent fight under the sea is very commendable.
In other technical notes, Wilson and Maibum's script is rather impressive and ambitious when you consider how it takes two Fleming stories, 'For Your Eyes Only' and 'Risico', and seamlessly melds them together. In terms of actual performances, it is Topol as Columbo who really shines through. Topol has a spades of charm and injects plenty of charisma into his character (something a lot of the other actors, Moore included, fail to do), I would have loved to haven seen him return in another Bond picture as he was seriously deserving of one.
In summary, FYEO had a lot of potential and despite the project's initial intent it does get somewhat derailed. It's mostly saved by a thrilling and exciting third-act but it's still hard to shake that feeling of disappointment. It's by no means a bad film, but it's hardly a great one. Instead we have a rather dull and forgettable entry which could have been so much more.