Sunday, August 7, 2011

For Your Eyes Only (1981)

 Welcome to your briefing 007. Your mission: For Your Eyes Only. One of our top secret systems, APAC, has been compromised. The St. Georges ship it was on sank and we need you to get to the bottom of this case before we are under even more threat. Watch out for the Russians, and start with the Havelock's. They should be able to help.

The Beginning:
The opening scene here is a bit strange in my opinion. It opens in a cemetery where James Bond is visiting the grave of his late wife Teresa. From there, the priest informs him that he is needed back at the office, and he is swooped up by the Universal Exports helicopter (I can't remember, but I think this might be the first use of Universal Exports as the cover company for MI6?). But the helicopter is the work of his enemy, Blofeld!? The return of Blofeld, but not for long. After toying with him for far too long, Bond out smarts the controlling Blofeld and deposits him in a smokestack. But not before my favorite line of the series thus far. Trying to work out a deal for his life, Blofeld offers this to Bond: "I'll buy you a delicatessen in stainless steel." Not even sure what that means but it's hilarious.

And that segues into the  credit sequence and theme song. We have Sheena Easton singing, nay performing, the title song "For Your Eyes Only." I say performing because she is actually in the sequence singing the song, which is kind of weird in my opinion. But the song is actually really catchy, I like it. Buuut, not for this movie, not for this series. It is a ballad and much too slow in my opinion to fit into the catalogue of Bond theme songs. It just doesn't work with the aura of the series. Sure, they did something different and were thinking outside the box, and I liked the song, but I don't think it worked for the movie.

Location: 
Greece, Cortina

Allies:
 Columbo: 
Columbo is an interesting ally in the Bond series. He is first assumed to be the main enemy of Bond, threatening the theft of APAC. He goes by the name "The Dove" and appears to be a rich man who uses his power and money as a front for evil doing, but in the end he helps Bond out and it is discovered that someone else is the man Bond has been looking for.
 Luigi:
Luigi, on the other hand, is not much of an ally. He is the typical Bond contact who exists simply to prove that Bond is not all knowing or to help the screenplay make more sense by having a way to show how Bond gets the information he needs. He has a bit of screentime, not much personality, and then is quickly done away with by the enemy.
Enemies:
 Kristatos:
Kristatos is the opposite of Columbo in that Bond thinks he is an ally , but he turns out to be the main bad guy when all is said and done. He is somewhat of a strange Bond villain in that I found him to be somewhat dull really. He didn't have a whole lot of personality. He wanted the APAC to sell it to the Russians and make some money. And then he is training this little girl, who I will talk about later, to win the gold medal in figure skating. It just seemed strange and I didn't really care for the character.
 Locque:
Locque reminded me of some other villain, but I can't quite pin it. But anyway, he too is somewhat dull because we never get to hear him talk and he really doesn't seem to do anything, especially not very memorable, other than sit there and look ominous. He does seem to be everywhere Bond is and that is intimidating. He is the man with octagonal glasses and the know how, that is until he he meets Bond.
 Kriegler: 
Kriegler is a strange bird. He is a biathlon athlete from East Germany. He is a cross country skier and marksman, which allows him the unique ability to compete with Bond's skiing ability and be able to shoot him at the same time. Again, though, in the mold of the henchman, though one of the better ones because I actually felt like he was a pretty good match for Bond.

Q Branch:
There are really only two things to note from Q Branch, other than the runthrough the testing facility. The first is the car, which will be discussed further soon, but the feature here is the burglar protection, which just makes the car blow up on the bad guys trying to get in. Pretty bland really, and then Q has the gall to yell at Bond for not returning the equipment in pristine condition? Anyway, the other gadget Bond gets to use, and not in the field, is the Identigraph, which is some kind of advanced identification technology which is utilized to find out the whereabouts of the mysterious Locque.

The Girls: 
 Melina: 
Melina makes a pretty good Bond girl because of what she has invested in the proceedings. Her parents, the Havelock's are murdered in cold blood, as she watches on, so her new mission in life becomes vengeance, which is a pretty strong motivator. She joins forces with Bond and proves to be most capable, in fact saving Bond from sure death with her precise bowsmanship. Her drive and determination are admirable and her beautiful flowing locks make her one heck of a Bond girl.
 Bibi: 
Bibi is the figure skating protege of Kristatos and is quite annoying really. She is just a girl, but she gushes over Bond and much to my surprise, Bond resists her, and I really love that he also recognizes just how annoying she is. And yet, I'm not really sure why she is there other than to be another character in the story and another Bond girl. I guess she provides the cover for Kristatos, but that is a thin explanation.
 Lisl:
The last Bond girl is very small. Lisl is the woman of Columbo and Bond is able to woo her into bed like he has done to many women before hand. She is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the series, and even this installment specifically.

The Car & the Chase:
There are a couple chases in this film, and both of them are pretty good ones too. The first is the car chase and in a change of events, Bond's beautiful red Lotus gets blown up thanks to Q's ingenious theft protection, which means Bond and Melina must take her car, some sort of tiny Fiat/Bug type car that you would never see Bond get into if he wasn't in dire need of a getaway. The chase predominately occurs on the side of a slope, which makes it quite interesting as they intercut the action with nice comedic set pieces that go with a well imagined chase scene.

The other chase scene is a ski chase, similar to the opening sequence of The Spy Who Loved Me. At this point, and I know it will come up again in the series, I think it can be made obvious that Bond is a spectacular skier. In fact I think it is one of his best skills as a spy, it's just a shame he doesn't get to use it too often. There are some wacky things going on in this chase scene, including an Olympic ski jump, and some mountain motorcyclists, but the action is pretty good and executed fine by first time director John Glen.

Mission Debriefing:
The cast for this film is quite unique and as such the first thing I want to talk about. First and foremost you have Roger Moore, who does nothing to change my mind from what it has been the last few installments. But when it comes to everyone else, it's just very interesting, starting with Julian Glover as Kristatos. Julian Glover has to be the most unique actor give the roles he has played in his career. He has had the honor of playing not only a Bond villain, but also a bad guy in Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I am sure he is in elite company, and what is more is that he is good in all three roles. He has  certain way about him that just seems to work as a bad guy. That brings us to Topol, who plays Columbo. I would never have thought Topol would have been in a Bond film after seeing Fiddler on the Roof, but you know something, he kind of works. His personality, one of the major reasons I love Fiddler, actually translates fairly well to a likable ally to Bond in this film, something I was not expecting. Also, after the death of Bernard Lee, there was no M in this film, instead the Minister of Defense and Q were handling everything from MI6.

But on to the girls and it seems to get even more interesting. First there is Carole Bouquet, who doesn't have some interesting casting tidbit, but she does a decent job portraying Melina, not great, but decent. But then moving along to Lynn-Holly Johnson, who plays Bibi, she is worth mentioning because she was actually a figure skater turned actress who also gained notoriety for her role, also as a figure skater, in the film Ice Castles, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe. However, in this film she is no good. I really didn't like her character, and maybe that is due to her good acting, but I don't think so. I didn't like Bibi and I didn't like Johnson. The last is Cassandra Harris, who plays Lisl. What is remarkable about her is who she married during production of the film. Yes, she married a young actor named Pierce Brosnan. Wow.

But anyway, the movie. So I actually liked a fair amount of what was going on here in John Glen's first of five efforts in the series. Coming off of the crazy big, fantasy infused Moonraker and The Spy Who Loved Me, this film is much more grounded, small and realistic, even if it does have those few Bondisms that make them escapist entertainment, like the hockey sequence which just does not work and has no business being anywhere near this movie. Just dumb. There are some nice call backs in this film too, starting with the gravesite of Teresa Bond and the Blofeld opening sequence. However, the Blofeld "cameo" just seemed really weird to me and almost unnecessary. But like I said earlier there is more skiing and the series seems to have become obsessed with water as we have more underwater action, the likes of which we will see in the future as well. Another thing is Bond finally makes his way back to the casino. It seems like it has been way too long since Bond has played some baccarat.

But I really want to voice just how unbelivable Bond has become as Bond. There are two particular sequences that just made my eyes role because Moore is too old and not in the state that would afford him to be able to do certain things from a physical standpoint, and I know I sound like a broken record. The first is a sequence where he competes with a car while racing up a ton of stairs. There is no way he could climb all those stairs that fast to keep up with the car. The other one comes at the end when he free climbs the cliff face of Kristatos' monastery hide out. Far too impressive for the aging Moore, although a great idea, especially give the awesomeness of the location.

I think the film was just too inconsistent to rank among the very best of the Bond series. The good, and even great, ideas and sequences were mixed in with mediocre to completely unnecessary ones which ultimately mired the film in a roller coaster 2 hours. The same can really be said for the performances, which were a mixed bag. But ultimately, the idea of the film, and the execution of those good sequences I talked about make this film memorable enough to best some of the other sub par entries in the Bond series. I also really like the fact that they went away from the fanatical ideas and made this one much more grounded. A much more solid film for that reason.

I do have one last request for the franchise: can we stop having been get caught having sex at the very end? It's getting a little old. Thank you.  


James Bond will return in...

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