#116 The Living Daylights
James Bond (Timothy Dalton) helps a defecting Russian General (Jerone Krabbe) escape to the West. Once in England, General Koskov tells MI6 of a plan to kill American and British spies and the only way to prevent it is to kill the current head of the KGB, General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). In short order Koskov is retaken by the KGB and Bond is sent out to assassinate Pushkin. Bond however, doesn’t trust the intel and decides to follow a lead regarding a Russian sniper/cellist (Maryam d’Abo) and track down the real villains of this film.
Once again the torch is passed and Timothy Dalton takes on the mantel of 007. Originally Pierce Brosnan was set up to be the next Bond but his contract with tv series Remington Steele was re-newed at the last possible moment and the Bond producers dropped him from the role stating ‘why would people pay money to see him be Bond in the cinema when they can see him in a similar role ever week in their own homes?”
This made a lot of people mad because of the hype around Brosnan taking up the part and I think this has a definite bearing on how well received Dalton was in the role. Dalton is often ranked as the worst/2nd worst Bond by many of the fans. People just could not warm to him in the role and were holding onto some resentments about losing out on Brosnan. As such he had a lot harder time making his mark on the public than either Moore or Connery did. Also after the more comedic Bond from Moore, Dalton became the most serious of all the Bonds and this could also attribute for his general dislike.
This film was made in 1987 and I was born in 1988, so I did not have any of the preconceived hatred for him in the role many did when I watched it for the first time years later. I was watching it fresh and to my mind I still can’t see what is so wrong with him in the part. Even when I was a kid I could see OHMSS was a boring film and that Lazenby was a boring Bond but Dalton’s Bond, while stuffier, was still keeping the general spirit of Bond alive.
His actions and tone were a nice change after the silliness of Moore’s films were getting out of control. The are only really 2 downside I can see in his performance: He can’t pull off the one liners and he can’t quite pull off the charm. Bond shouldn’t be too comical but he should be able to pull off a couple of one liners throughout the mix. Dalton’s Bond was way to serious for this and whenever he does throw one out it just doesn’t ring true. Additionally, while handsome enough, he doesn’t have the spark which makes him the centre of attention in a room full of people.
Getting to the film in question, this is probably one of the best action packed Bond films since TSWLM. It’s a fast paced romp with a good spy intrigue plot and some interesting set up. We’re given a good opening and reveal of Dalton, a good recapturing of Koskov, a good car chase, a good desert sequence and a good airplane battle. All the sequences flow on from one and other and at no point does it feel like “Oh now we’ve reached the car chase portion of the film”.
Again d’Abo as Kara Milovy is probably the best Bond girl since TSWLM. She’s beautiful and naive but she’s also helpful and loyal once she finds out what’s going on. Her reactions seem genuine and her being there makes more sense than the usual “we need to have Bond interact with a woman here”.
The villains aren’t anything special this time around but they are what the film calls for. Koskov is slimy and manipulative, Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) is a loud mouthed American gun nut working well enough as an arms dealer and finally Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) is an assassin in the same mould as Red Grant (Robert Shaw) in FRWL. There are a lot of the muscular blond henchmen throughout the series but Necros managed to distinguish himself enough with his preferred method of killing with his Walkman earphones. Also his final fight and death on board the plane is a good example of how Octopussy should have ended instead of the way it did.
The Aston martin returns to the series after it’s absence in place of the Lotus Esprit and makes its mark again with a pretty good chase sequence. Bond’s whistle activated keyring also marks one of the more useful and seemingly plausible gadgets of the series in quite a while.
Others may bad mouth this film, and its Bond, but I think it’s the one of the best in the series for a long time and is still enjoyable to watch even now. 4/5