Monday, December 1, 2014

For Your Eyes Only

  Finally, a 007 film that hearkens back to the Connery days. Feeling like a blend of From Russia With Love, Thunderball, and even the best parts of On Her Majesty's Secret Service, this 12th official outing drops the sci-fi angle, drops the tacky humor and plays it straight. Well, at least the straightest of Moore's stint so far. This time, Bond teams up with a woman dead-set on avenging her parents death at the hands of a smuggler who's looking to sell a top secret device to the Russians. The device, called the ATAC, was recovered from a deliberately sunken British naval ship, it can redirect command codes from any of Her Majesty's submarines, and even issue false orders. This is clearly a major problem. Sure this device isn't so far off from the 'Lektor' but it's plausible and gels with the story. Subsequently, right off the bat there is a sense of urgency, thrusting Bond into action. I won't get too much further into the plot because for the first time in several movies or so, I felt it was worth paying attention to this time.

   Surprisingly, the movie reins in some of the wilder trademark aspects of Moore's 007. His time spent 'undercover' is probably less than any other movie in the franchise, thus far. That's not to say his sex appeal has been curtailed. He's still the suave secret agent we've all come to know and love. He cracks a witty one-liner to his female passenger, Ms.Havelock, during a quite intense car chase, and for once... she smiles and laughs instead of swooning. Carole Bouquet plays Melina Havelock, the "Bond girl" of this installment. She's a no-nonsense and highly capable partner for Bond, saving his life frequently, and even trading wit with him. Unfortunately, despite being immensely easy on the eyes, and incredibly handy with a crossbow, Bouquet's acting leaves something to be desired. When the context of a scene affords her the opportunity to react with a natural reaction, she's absolutely wonderful. Stunning even. Yet in certain scenes her acting seems like it's putting her to sleep, to say nothing of us, the audience.

  She's not bad overall, and at least the role is smartly written and the character is more interesting than yet another typical damsel in distress. God forbid we have another Mary Goodnight on our hands. I shudder at the thought. Melina is, at the very least, capable of holding her own in the action scenes and such, keeping up with Bond through car chases, shootouts, and other crazy sequences. Or maybe I should say Bond keeps up with her? His age is definitely showing, though not enough to stick out like a sore thumb or detract from the viewing experience. I wouldn't have minded this being his last movie. Three good movies out of five total isn't bad. Yet Octopussy and A View to A Kill were still on the horizon. Nevertheless, before I get ahead of myself, let me get back to the movie at hand.

  For Your Eyes Only has some fantastic action scenes. Being the third Bond film with a ski chase, I feel like this was the most intense and well choreographed so far. It makes good use of it's winter setting, creatively breaking up the chase into several parts, each eclipsing the last. It's intense and moves at a breakneck pace. As does most of the action in general. Havelock's introduction to Bond was highlighted by a fantastic car chase. Forsaking a gadget stocked ride in favor of a gutsy little Citro├źn 2CV, the filmmakers found new ways to excite, rather than simply falling back on oil slick and rockets much like Moonraker might have done. Those are just some of the more memorable moments, though I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the scene in which Bond and Melina are tied up and dragged in the water behind a speedboat. The scene leaves you quite literally... breathless.

  These are the kinds of scenes that remind me of the Connery era. This stuff was a little brutal, a little edgy. It wasn't always super flashy, but it also didn't need to be. It had punch, and impact. The same can be said for the movie itself. It's far from flashy, and has a music score on par with the other one I didn't like, from The Spy Who Loved Me. Yet the movie is great. It relies far more on physical stunts and thrills instead of science fiction and absurd gadgets. That's not to say that the movie is without it's gadgetry, but it's practical stuff. Never having Bond over-prepared for every single possible scenario, we see him using his head, and thinking his way out of precarious situations. Something which was becoming rather scarce in these movies. With a cast of occasionally memorable, but wholly serviceable supporting characters, and a decent plot, For Your Eyes Only is a worthy entry in the series which heartily overcomes it's flaws and manages to be top notch entertainment.

  Unfortunately it's flaws include a terribly forgettable villain that would seem more at home in a made-for-TV movie of the week. He wasn't acted poorly, but it was just a severely underwritten part. Leaving him with nothing memorable to say or do. Surprisingly though, the climax takes place on top of a mountain, in an old stone castle fortress. A far cry from the steel walled underground complexes that seemed to me an unshakable mainstay of the series. As fun as those are, they wear thin rather quickly. Moonraker seemed only too content to have another one of those, but bigger and better than all the rest. It was visually impressive, but the switch up in this one was a welcome surprise that fit the tone of the movie. Making it all the better for it.  This 007 outing, while it has some flaws, and a reserved tone that might not appeal to fans of the flashier entries, is one that could easily rank with some of the best in the franchise.  Certainly a fan favorite of mine.

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