Maybe Judge Dave Ryan is an open book because he knows you're his...
Bond is back! And he's doing…stuff! With guns! And chicks!
In the Bond world, the late-career Roger Moore films are generally looked down upon as weak at best, and catastrophic pieces of crap at worst. The exception, though, is For Your Eyes Only. It isn't the greatest Bond film ever, and it doesn't really have that intangible "super-memorable" factor that the best of Bond has. Even the plot seems like just a retread of Thunderball. But it's a surprisingly sharp film, with a lot of high-quality chase scenes, that proves to be surprisingly entertaining 25-odd years down the line.
Facts of the Case
James Bond (Roger Moore, TV's The Saint) is called upon by British intelligence to recover a submarine…control…thingy that looks an awful lot like a cash register. The thingy appears to have fallen into the hands of the Greek underworld, specifically a drug runner named Columbo (Topol, Fiddler on the Roof). Helping James is a double agent working for the English named Kristatos (Julian Glover, The Empire Strikes Back). Also helping out (really! Sometimes Bond girls are useful, you know…) is Melina Havelock (French model/actress Carole Bouquet, who was later the "face" of Chanel), the daughter of a marine archeologist who was killed by Columbo while helping the English. But hey, it's ski season, so instead of being in Greece, everyone's in Cortina d'Ampezzo! Wacky Bond high jinks ensue.
I was nine years old when I saw Moonraker. And even I knew that it was a piece of crap. So let's just say that the public's expectations were probably not set very high with respect to For Your Eyes Only. However, first-time Bond director John Glen (not the astronaut) turned out a much-needed focused return to the basic elements that make Bond films great: babes and thrills.
For Your Eyes Only really feels more like a Sean Connery film than a Roger Moore film. Glen has Moore play Bond with a much harder edge than he had in prior films. He's still a suave ladies' man, but now there's a quiet malice behind the stylish facade that we hadn't seen before. One of Glen's stated goals (per the extras) was to show the viewer that Bond is someone who is not averse to killing at all, and he does achieve that to some extent.
The highlight of For Your Eyes Only is the elaborate ski chase in and around the Olympic venues in Cortina d'Ampezzo. Sure, we've seen this sort of thing before—in On Her Majesty's Secret Service—but the action photography here is much better than it was in 1969, and therefore this ski sequence as a whole is definitely superior to the prior film's set pieces. The bobsled run chase is worth the price of admission alone. The story isn't as ridiculous as most of the other Moore-era plots, too—it makes sense, and is well-paced in the telling.
This is, of course, the first release of this film on the Blu-Ray format. The video transfer is predictably spectacular, as it should be for a relatively recent film. The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio, with an upgraded DTS HD 5.1 MLA surround audio track. (The original Dolby 2.1 Surround audio is also available as an option.) The only gripe I have is with the audio track, which suffers (as do many after-generated 5.1 tracks in my experience) from a too-quiet dialog center track. I'm all for dynamic range, but when the speech is at a volume of 25 while all the effects and music are at 70, it's not "exploring the space" anymore—it's just a poor mix.
The extras package is identical to the previously-released SD disc. It's a nice package, with three commentaries, some interesting featurettes, and the usual gaggle of trailers, stills, and Sheena Easton. Which leads to the question…
…is this Blu-ray release worth an upgrade from the SD edition? The answer is probably not. The SD release of For Your Eyes Only was of very high quality, and in the absence of any new extras or additional value added, the incrementally better HD picture probably isn't worth the expense, especially for what should be considered a non-essential Bond film. A perfectly decent Bond film—but not an essential one.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately, James Bond did return in Octopussy, as the end credits promised. Let's…not talk about that, shall we?
For Your Eyes Only is one of the better Roger Moore Bond films, if not the best. Of course, that isn't saying that much. While it isn't one of the all-time great films in the series, it's quite entertaining, and the ski chases are terrific. Only completists are going to want to own this film, but it's well worth a rental if you're in the mood for a Bond fix.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary with Director John Glen and Cast
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