For Your Eyes Only (1981)


When a British sea ship carrying a top secret encryption device sinks, M16 agent James Bond (Roger Moore, The Cannonball Run) is sent to Spain to investigate. Bond’s mission is simple: find the device before the Soviets get their hands on it.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“007, try not to muck it up again.”

After out-of-this-world shenanigans, James “007” Bond “comes back to Earth.” Moonraker (1979) had been heavily criticized for its excesses and For Your Eyes Only was a conscious attempt to return the franchise to the minimalist days of Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963) — no other Bond has divided fans more.

When it first came out, I remember the big arguments regarding the pros and cons of dialing back the popular series. Personally, I thought For Your Eyes Only was one of the strongest films in the series and this latest re-watch confirmed my initial reaction — For Your Eyes Only is definitely one of my favorite Moore/Bond films.

There are so many things I like about For Your Eyes Only! First, there’s a nice sense of continuity. The pre-title sequence closes the final chapter on Bond’s deadliest nemesis, SPECTER’s Blofeld. We also see Bond visiting his late wife’s grave, played by Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, which is a much-appreciated human touch.

Although there is plenty of humor, this entry, for the most part, sports a decidedly serious tone. The screenplay by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson isn’t afraid to show Bond’s darker side. For example, Moore, who always tried to stay away from Sean Connery’s mean-spirited characterization, kills a man in cold blood, a moment of cruel revenge. You won’t see Moore act like that in any other Bond movie.

All those super-cool stuff gadgets are kept to the minimum. Peter Lamont’s sets are great, particularly a recreation of a monastery at Pinewood Studios, but they never look overdone. Alan Hume’s (Return of the Jedi) camera work is pretty straightforward, too. The villains are also surprisingly “human.” No henchmen with weird powers. The motivations are simple, too — Bond is fighting old-fashioned greed.

The supporting cast is strong. Carole Bouquet (That Obscure Object of Desire) is an excellent heroine. Topol (Fiddler on the Roof) plays the most interesting character in the film: a morally dubious man who saves the day. The cast also includes Lynn-Holly Johnson (Ice Castles) and Julian Glover (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade). Charles Dance (Alien 3) has a small role as one of the baddies.

Finally, the Oscar-nominated tune “For Your Eyes Only” is one of my favorite Bond songs. The melody was written by Bill Conti (music) and Michael Leeson (lyrics), and sung by Scottish singer Sheena Easton. Conti’s (Rocky and The Right Stuff) music has dated a bit, but if you like the sound of the ’80s, you’ll love it. Bex, from Film Music Central, does a great job explaining the story behind the famous song.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

There is much to enjoy in For Your Eyes Only  the beautiful locales, the fabulous supporting cast, etc. The action sequences are excellent, and yet there isn’t a single colossal action set-piece — it’s just solid fun from beginning to end. For Your Eyes Only is probably the Bond film that best balances the down-to-earth early sixties with the 1970s glitz — it’s definitely worth watching. Color, 127 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
Octopussy (1983)

10 responses to “For Your Eyes Only (1981)

  1. You are so right about this being a movie that is down to earth in more ways than one. I like the more serious tone to this one. It’s a very strong Bond movie that as you said feels human.

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  2. I agree it is the best Moore-Bond movie even with the ‘acting’ of Lynn-Holly. I worked with her on Ice Castles. Such a sweet girl. Such a good ice skater. Such a wooden actress.

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    • Did you really meet Johnson? Wow! That’s cool. She was a childhood favorite. My generation loved Ice Castles & Watcher in the Woods. She was hot for a while, but you are right, you can’t coast on giddiness alone and her limitations as an actor became too obvious. A bit like Brooke Shields, whose charm didn’t last long. Anyhow, I’m glad to know that Johnson is as sweet as she appears to be.

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  3. The scene with Loque certainly makes an impact. Moore apparently had to be talked into it. But he did have his cruel moments before whether roughing up Maud Adams, aiming up on a man’s private ‘piece’ or asking where’s Feckish. I think The Spy Who Loved Me from beginning to end is a delight and Moonraker does sport a terribly witty villain but there’s no denying For Your Eyes Only holds up tremendously well to modern eyes. I am a fan of it. Who doesn’t love Topol and how about that Rick Sylvester stunt?!

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    • I forgot about the Maud Adams scene. You are right, Moore didn’t like violence and cruelty. I think that’s why his Bond movies are more family-friendly. Rick Sylvester’s stunts in The Spy Who Loved Me & For Your Eyes Only are unforgettable!

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  4. I got here through Cindy’s blog, Eric. I should check out your blog more often, always nice to see a fellow Bond fan. For Your Eyes Only is one of my guilty pleasures, I have a soft spot for Moore and his whimsical style and the locations are simply gorgeous here. I like Carole Bouquet as the enigmatic and classy Bond girl, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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