Sep 2, 2014

Review: The Living Daylights (1987)

The Living Daylights is a new dawn in the James Bond franchise. Roger Moore had decided that he was done playing 007 while A View to a Kill was still in theatres. As much as I like Moore, he made the right decision because it's pretty clear that his age became painfully obvious in his last Bond entry. He had a great run though and created an interesting chapter in the Bond franchise.

Director John Glen is back for his fourth helping of James Bond, Barbara Broccoli has finally made producer status as an associate, John Barry is back once again to score and in comes Timothy Dalton for the first time. In terms of what James Bond is meant to look like in the book, Dalton is the one who I think fulfills the requirements perfectly. He's charming and good-looking so it's definitely convincing to see him getting the ladies. At the same time though, he's also cold and seems to have that "cruel" streak that Ian Fleming describes as Bond having inside of him.

I've said before that I don't have a favourite Bond. I like them all for the unique qualities that they bring and I definitely appreciate what Dalton brings with him. More traditional in style in comparison to Roger Moore's Bond, he's also more intense and more prone to anger than Sean Connery's Bond was. Compared to George Lazenby, I guess he's less...jovial?


Genre: action, adventure, romance
Directed by: John Glen
Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, etc.
Written by: Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson
Music by: John Barry
Running time: 130 minutes
Production company: Eon Productions
Distributed by: MGM/UA Distribution Company, United Artists, United International Pictures, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $40,000,000
Box office: $191,200,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbé, Joe Don Baker, John Rhys-Davies, Art Malik, Andreas Wisniewski, Thomas Wheatley, Desmond Llewelyn, Robert Brown, Geoffrey Keen, Walter Gotell, Caroline Bliss, John Terry, Virginia Hey, John Bowe, Julie T. Wallace, Belle Avery



A KGB officer, General Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) has negotiated a defection with Britain and James Bond (Timothy Dalton) has been tasked in aiding the secret operation.The escape is to be done at a concert hall in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia where James will be watching from above with a sniper rifle with orders to kill anyone who tries to stop Koskov. He sees another sniper on one of the upper levels of the concert hall, a blonde woman who clearly has no knowledge of how to use a gun. Striking him as strange, Bond doesn't kill her but shoots the rifle she's carrying. The operation goes off without a hitch and Koskov arrives in Austria where he then goes onwards to the UK.


The Living Daylights is a return to a more spy-y story. Stakeouts, following targets and such are great to watch the story has many twists and turns. It would seem like just about everyone is lying and James has to piece everything together the best he can. James Bond still goes to parties and fancy social settings but it seems like less of a pleasure cruise and much more a part of his job.

I suppose the big thing about The Living Daylights is that it is the most serious James Bond to ever come out at its time. You'd have to go back to the Connery Bonds to find anything resembling the darker tone in TLD and it's really a welcome change. James Bond is faced with a lot of heavy decisions but all the same, Timothy Dalton is still able to bring about some humour with a well-placed one-liner for example. Humour is not completely scrubbed away or anything and I wouldn't really want it to be. It's all done with a whole lot more restraint though.

In terms of the action, it's really crisp and taut. There are some pretty cool stunts, lots of guns and more than enough explosions. Hand to hand fights are rough and gritty with lots of good use of household objects and it all just seems like a big departure from the lazy action that we got in A View to Kill where everything was so clunky. It's hard to believe that both TLD and AVtaK have the same director. There's a great car chase with the beautiful Aston Martin V8 Vantage with probably more gadget use that you'd expect from a "serious Bond" movie like TLD. Personally I think it's all tastefully done and it doesn't ever sink into the corny trap that James Bond gadgets can at times fall into.

In terms of the characters, Jeroen Krabbé is great. (Spoilers) He's maybe not the most memorable villain in Bond lore but he makes for a very convincing KGB officer gone rogue. You think he's a bumbling fool at first but that charade is quickly dropped. He's not a psycho or anything like that, he just wants money and he uses anyone he can to get it. (End Spoilers) Maryam d'Abo makes a good Bond girl with good looks but also a willingness to mix it up physically when she can. She also seems to have a real thing going on with James Bond which is nice to see. Additional performances from Joe Don Baker and John Rhys-Davies are very welcome as well. With The Living Daylights I think I'm finally used to Robert Brown as M and Desmond Llewelyn has forever been good as Q. The reintroduction of Miss Moneypenny with a different actress surprisingly goes off without a hitch. 

With great action and a much more serious tone, The Living Daylights is a superb entry into the James Bond series. Introducing a new Bond is always dicey but it works out great with a super cool opening segment and a sure performance from Dalton. All the Bond elements are here but it all feels fresh and thrilling. Obviously important to note, I absolutely love the title song by A-ha as well as John Barry's score. The titles are well done and Barry works the A-ha theme whenever he can. For how good The Living Daylights is, it makes me feel like we the audience were robbed when Dalton only got to star in two James Bond movies.



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