For Your Eyes Only (1981)

"The Chinese have a saying. Before setting off on revenge, you first dig two graves!""The Chinese have a saying. Before setting off on revenge, you first dig two graves!"

“The Chinese have a saying. Before setting off on revenge, you first dig two graves!”

For Your Eyes Only, the 12th film in the James Bond franchise and the 5th appearance from Roger Moore has Bond rediscovering the roots of what made this franchise what it is up to this point in time. Starting in 1962, Bond has been around for nearly 2 decades, being at the forefront of fashion, technology, and action.  Sure, the assembly line production is there, the DNA stays the same, carrying every lesson learned from the previous films and adding in the new story that’s based on two of Fleming’s short stories in the written universe – For Your Eyes Only & Risico. Returning legacy screenwriter Richard Maibaum is back with a script he co-wrote with Michael G. Wilson.

For Moore as it was with Connery, playing the same role more often, the comfort level the actor has to the character begins to blend making it hard to distinguish where the actor ends, and the character begins. It took Moore a couple of installments to completely make this character his own. Connery is identifiable as bond instantaneously in his first film, but Moore dipped his toes in the water slowing becoming Bond with each new film. By the time The Spy Who Loved Me released, Moore looked to be at his most comfortable in the role.


Just about 2 decades into the longest running franchise there is no signs of slowing down. Since its inception, Bond (Roger Moore) has faced the toughest of villains hellbent on world domination. He’s traveled the globe, evaded one too many henchmen down snow-capped slopes, seduced some of the finest women with that award worthy charm and even went to space. Safe to say, Bond has been there and done that. With For Your Eyes Only, Bond trades his space suit in from Moonraker for his signature tuxedo to stop a megalomaniacal villain on a global scale but from the comfort of earth’s surface.

All the usual elements that make up a Bond films foundation are present here. The one staple character missing is M as played by Bernard Lee, but Lee tragically passed away from Cancer before getting to film his scenes for this installment. To honor his memory, the role wasn’t re-casted for this film. Bond still has his now more plutonic back and forth with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), A tour of fresh new gadgets and tech from Q (Desmond Llewelyn) and a rendezvous with another country’s agent (normally Felix Leiter) but now assisted by Luigi Ferrara (John Moreno). Briefing Bond is Sir Frederick Gray (Geoffrey Keen) the Minister of Defense.  

After the more fantasy driven Moonraker, Albert Broccoli’s response to the science fiction craze due to the release of Star Wars in 1977, For Your Eyes is a return to familiarity for Bond. Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson stick to a more grounded and grittier story that Connery was more in line with. Moore’s Bond has dealt with the supernatural and unexplainable forces of nature but now it’s his turn to stop a villain that has his own fortress in the sky. Just like Blofeld, who we may or may not see in the opening sequence (due to a legal copyright restriction), Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover) is nuclear obsessed, starts out in the film as an ally and later is revealed to be the mustache twirling villain behind the theft of the Automatic Targeting Attack Computer (ATAC for short) which can control the Royal Navy’s fleet of Polaris submarines. 

The new Bond girl Melina Havelock (Carole Bouguet) witnesses the murder of her parents and vows revenge against her parents’ hitman Hector Gonzalez. It’s assumed by this point that Bond will easily seduce Melina but her motivation for revenge is more important to her character than a one-night stand. She isn’t the typical Bond girl who gets caught up in the action without a clue of what to do or where to go. A shift has been coming for the Bond girls – they are given better treatment in the scripts and given more to do. Melina Havelock easily can defend herself but leave it to classic character tropes to make her be saved by a male character. 


The Bond series has thrived, found lasting success when its tone stays more serious than silly. The silliness was an experiment that gladly didn’t last as the franchise’s identity has been more about the substance. One of the more integral aspects of a Bond film is the relationship between Bond and whichever villain he’s on a mission to stop. The villain is given the necessary development and screen time to form a relationship with. Though the methods they take are more on the extreme side of things, Kristatos dragging Bond and Havelock in shark infested waters to kill his nemesis, their relationship is symbiotic – one cannot exist without the other. 

For Your Eyes Only is another example of the reoccurring theme of Queen and Country. Bond will do whatever is necessary to protect England, to keep the status quo and to usher peace. He’s loyal by nature, never once turning his back on duty even though those above his paygrade may have different plans for him. Roger Moore has made Bond his own – he looks dapper in a tuxedo, he can handle himself in a fight, stays calm under the imminent threat of a nuclear war and has the charm and charisma to win anyone over. When the time comes it will be difficult to accept a new actor taking over for Moore in the role but for now, his era of Bond deserves to be in the conversation with Connery. For Your Eyes Only isn’t the best Bond effort but it certainly isn’t the worst, its smack dab in the middle with some of the best efforts.

Written By: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson

Directed By: John Glen

Music By: Bill Conti

Cinematography: Alan Hume

Starring: Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Chaim Topol, Julian Glover

Distributed By: United Artists

Release Date: June 24, 1981

Running Time: 2 Hours 7 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 73%

My Score: 3.5 out of 5

Based On: For Your Eyes Only & Risico by Ian Fleming

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