US Release Date: 07-31-1987
Directed by: John Glen
- Timothy Dalton, as
- James Bond
- Maryam dAbo, as
- Kara Milovy
- Jeroen Krabbe, as
- General Georgi Koskov
- Joe Don Baker, as
- Brad Whitaker
- John Rhys-Davies, as
- General Leonid Pushkin
- Art Malik, as
- Kamran Shah
- Desmond Llewelyn, as
- Robert Brown, as
- Walter Gotell, as
- General Anatol Gogol
- Caroline Bliss, as
- Miss Moneypenny
- John Terry, as
- Felix Leiter
- Andreas Wisniewski as
Timothy Dalton is the most underrated of all the Bonds.
Timothy Dalton's James Bond, which made its debut with this movie, is a much more serious James Bond than either Roger Moore's or the later Sean Connery Bonds. Where Roger Moore never seemed to take anything serious, Timothy Dalton seems to take everything serious. The result of this darker portrayal is that almost for the first time since On Her Majesty's Secret Service there's a genuine sense of tension in a Bond movie.
Bond's mission this time puts him on the trail of a Russian General and an American Arms Dealer who are using a large amount of money from the Russian Government to do a major drug deal. The General, Koskov, pretends to defect so that he can convince the British Government to assassinate another Russian official who stands in the way of the deal.
Maryam d'Abo is the Bond girl and while she's a little ditzy, I like her. She's attractive and provides some comic relief. With Dalton's more serious performance he seems to develop real feelings for her. She's the only Bond girl in the whole movie, which has to be a first.
There really isn't a traditional Bond villain in this one. No bigger than life character trying to take over the world, which I find to be a relief. Koskov is never truly life-threatening, but he is slimy and amusing in an entertaining way.
While the slapstick is gone and the tension put back in, there are still gadgets to be found. Bond's Aston Martin comes complete with a laser beam and his key-chain plays a big part. While the laser scene is a bit awkward, the other gadgets don't distract from the movie. In fact, they enhance it. A Bond movie isn't a Bond movie without some gadgets. The trick is to not let them become jokey or take over the movie.
One thing they do wrong here, is the same thing the Bond producers have gotten wrong so many times before and that is the character of Felix Leiter. His appearance here though, might just be the most gratuitous of the entire series. It's as if they decided they wanted Leiter in there somewhere and so quickly filmed a couple of minutes that they could drop into the movie.
I have to confess that I have a soft spot for this movie. I was 18-years-old when it was released and this was the first time I was old enough to be aware of a new James Bond being introduced. I was also thrilled that in interviews Dalton stated that he had read the Ian Fleming novels (of which I'm a huge fan) and was going to base his portrayal upon the character in the books. In a lot of ways I felt like this was my James Bond. I ended up seeing The Living Daylights 3 or 4 times in the theater. I still think that Dalton is the most under-rated Bond and I wish that he had been given more than just two opportunities to showcase his skills as the super-spy.
The milk man takes out a heavily guarded British safe house.
A “little” ditzy? Kara is the worst Bond babe of all time! She ruined the movie for me. She is so completely inept that she almost accidentally kills Bond several times. Maryam dAbo is a vacuum. She plays a dumb blonde without any of the sex appeal. She borders on retarded. She is so stupid that her boyfriend Yurgi asks her pretend to kill him, and she agrees. My favorite scene of hers is when she hugs Bond and says happily, “We’re free!” because they just escaped from a jail, but Bond corrects her, “Kara, we're inside a Russian airbase in the middle of Afghanistan.”
The Living Daylights starts out weak. Dalton has some stupid lines. The strawberry jam and the living daylights lines come to mind. It gets better as it goes along, but Kara should have been dumped early on, and a second Bond girl should have been put in the second half of the movie. I recall reading, when this film first came out, that this was the monogamous Bond as it only features one woman. It was not a good idea, particularly with the one they chose.
The good thing about The Living Daylights is Timothy Dalton. In the early scenes I did not care for him. He is smug to Saunders and quite arrogant. As the movie proceeded, he grew on me. He has charm and acting chops. He is better than the material he is saddled with, and more notably, his female co-star.
Timothy Dalton in action as 007 in The Living Daylights.
Isn't it funny how some movies leave an indelible print on your brain while others are almost completely forgotten soon after you leave the theater? Perhaps because this is a Bond movie with their interchangeable plots and similar casts of characters but The Living Daylights is one movie that I saw when it first came out that I retained almost no memory of. That is until I began to watch it again. Suddenly it all came flooding back. Memories, and the passage of time, are so strange.
I agree with Scott that Timothy Dalton is underrated as 007. Based just on this movie I place him almost neck and neck with Pierce Brosnan and just behind Sean Connery in the list of best Bonds. His Bond, James Bond takes his job very seriously while remaining a sophisticated man of the world with a sense of humor he knows when to use and when not to.
The quips are in shorter supply here but there are a few decent ones. Q gets a line that could only work in the 1980s when he refers to a large weaponized radio and says, “That’s a ghetto blaster, something we’re working on for the Americans.” After James dispatches the henchman he has been fighting while they hang out of the back of a plane he makes you wait for the punch line. The guy had been holding on to Bond’s footgear. James cuts the laces causing the man to plummet to his death. After he is seated safely back at the controls of the plane, Kara asks him, “What happened.” “He got the boot.”
What didn’t I like about this installment in the venerable franchise? The theme song by Aha for one. It is completely bland and forgettable. And while I found Maryam d’Abo to be a bit generic she does bring some levity to the movie which balances Dalton’s - at times - almost reverential tone.
It was interesting seeing Jeroen Krabbé as General Koskov. The only other movie I can remember seeing him in (and the role he will always be associated with in my mind) is as Barbra Streisand’s snobby violinist husband in The Prince of Tides (my brothers are right, I can work a Streisand reference into nearly any review).
Once again the ending of a Bond movie gets dragged out. The real finale happens aboard that plane I mentioned earlier. It features one of the tensest Bond situations. He is fighting a man as they hang onto a net that is dangling from the aircraft. The net is filled with bags of opium. The rope holding the net is beginning to fray. Oh yeah, and there’s a bomb set to detonate in a matter of seconds. The scene at Whitaker’s mansion afterwards is anticlimactic to say the least.
The Living Daylights is a solid Bond movie and I share my brothers’ sentiment that it’s a shame Timothy Dalton’s reign didn’t last a bit longer.
Photos © Copyright MGM/UA (1987)