General Georgi Koskov: I’m sorry, James. For you I have great affection, but we have an old saying: duty has no sweethearts.
James Bond: We have an old saying too, Georgi. And you’re full of it.
Directed by John Glen
Reviewed by Victor
8 out of 10
The Living Daylights is the 15th Bond entry and the first of 2 films that starred Timothy Dalton as James Bond. I wish he had done more. The studio took a gamble that paid off in getting Dalton to bring an edgier, leaner Bond back to the big screen. Fortunately for all involved Roger Moore decided to hang it up with the Bond movies (He was close to 60 years old) after the ridiculousness of “A View to a Kill” which was a critical and financial let down. Moore did 7 films overall and for the most part his Bond was a long running gag, it seemed, until “For Your Eyes Only” which was the best Moore Bond in my opinion. Moore should have stopped there. He didn’t. Much to our astonishment. But, oh well he did have a good run and we had to move on since we all wanted more Bond and more Bond girls.
The first thing I loved right away was that the movie was a genuine spy picture and not an unintentional parody of itself. We get a very cool intro involving a training exercise in Gibraltar. Here we are re-introduced to the stoic and deadly serious new “M” played by Robert Brown (who would go on to play M four times) as the head of MI:6. He gives his paratroopers their instructions and has them jump out of an airplane to descend on awaiting soldiers with paint guns. But in typical action movie fashion some jerk has real ammunition and is ready to do some damage to the double O’s that are unaware it’s open season on British spies. This opening is fast and full of well choreographed action as we are introduced to our new Bond – Timothy Dalton. He’s fast, pissed and seriously wants to get the asshole who just did his mates in. And he does and soon after of course he lands on a yacht and convinces a bored woman that he is a “Real Man.”
I must admit, I wasn’t too keen on the “A-Ha” tune at first but it grew on me. It became catchy and after I purchased the Bond songs compilation CD a few years back it became one of my favorites behind Duran Duran’s and Sheryl Crow’s entries.
Right after the opening we get a somewhat faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s short story “The Living Daylights” It basically involves a Russian defector who frames his girlfriend Kara Milovy (Maryam D’abo) as an assassin. The defection though is not all that it seems to be since General Koskov played by Jeroen Krabbe (The Fugitive) is blaming the innocent General Pushkin (John Ryhs Davies – Raiders of the Lost Ark) for putting out a hit on British Spies known as “Smert Shpionam.” Davies replaces Walter Gotell (General Gogol) after Gotell fell ill and could not work. After Koskov is re-captured Bond gets very suspicious and starts to tail Kara to get close to Koskov and pose as his old friend.
Former model D’abo is a bit weak as a Bond girl. She is too timid, quiet and at times too doe-eyed. She starts to really come into herself once she starts to figure out Bond’s intentions. She plays strongly off of Dalton and by the third act she is pretty much playing his equal. Dalton, though continues to impress. His seriousness and anti-establishment leanings are fun to watch as he bends the rules, rubs a co – agent the wrong way and defies orders. For example he gets Koskov out of the country using a very busty Russian double agent to entice a watchmen and off goes Koskov in a small tube in the Russian oil pipe-line. Great stuff. These little bits of levity are welcome but I loved the straight tone of the film. Even “Q” played by the ever lovable Desmond Llewelyn gets into the lighter moments as he introduces Bond to the latest spyware gadgets like my favorite – A large boom box with Missles. “Something we are making for the Americans. It’s called a Ghetto-Blaster!” Just fucking brilliant.
So, on with the rest of the cast. I really liked that they let us have, for once, a very cute and attractive Ms. Moneypenny here with the lovely Caroline Bliss. Bliss is at first a bit stiff but settles in nicely as she starts to flirt with Dalton and obviously she shows us that she pines for him as he turns to leave. She gives us the goo goo eyes and pouty lips. As the action and story nicely progress (after a long stunt filled chase scene in the snow and over a frozen lake using Q’s tricked out car) we end up in Afghanistan and we watch Joe Don Baker chew the scenery as the militant and sometimes buffonish arms dealer Brad Whitaker. He gets what’s coming to him as he double deals and back-stabs to no end. The big surprise for me was Art Malik as Kamran Shah as a leader of the Mujahideen. Art steals every scene he’s in starting as a lowly, dirty prisoner of war then being outed as a military leader in disguise. He and Dalton butt heads but Art’s loveable nature and his devotion to his cause (that involves Opium and Russian figureheads) is very believable.
So, to wrap it up, The Living Daylights is very good and the last “Cold War” entry of the franchise. John Barry’s score is hip but repetitive at times. He gives the movie sufficient momentum during a few tracks like the plane chase during the movie’s finale. I rather admire Barry for his long run as the stand out composer of the Bond films. (David Arnold as well). The finale is rousing fun with a great attack on the Russian airfield and Bond’s desperate attempt to stop a bomb and drugs from leaving the country. So, there are bombs, bullets, camels, horses and a great climactic fight between Dalton and the dude with the small feet from “Die Hard” – Andreas Wisniewski as the deadly “Necros” (why are all these henchmen blonde?) who gives it all he has to try and defeat Bond. The stunts are great and the action very entertaining. The last showdown between Bond and Whitaker is just plain hilarious. “He met his Waterloo”
So, enjoy this first of 2 Timothy Dalton entries, gang. It’s a goodbye to the Cold War Bond films and it works in all the right places. Recommended.