10 July 2012 | hitchcockthelegend
Stuff my orders! I only kill professionals.
The Living Daylights is directed by John Glen and adapted to screenplay by Ricahrd Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson from an Ian Fleming story. It stars Timothy Dalton, Maryam d'Abo, Jeroen Krabbe, Brad Whitaker, John Rhys-Davies, Joe Don Baker and Art Malik. Music is scored by John Barry and cinematography by Alec Mills.
Bond 15 and 007 is assigned to Bratislava to help in the defection of Soviet General Kosov from the Iron Curtain. But pretty soon Bond is mired in a plot involving arms, opium and assassinations.
With Moore retired the search for a new Bond invariably came down to two names who had been mentioned in Bond circles before, Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton. TV schedules and commitments would play a part and eventually Dalton got the role and eagerly he read up on Fleming's novels to ensure he had a grasp on the beloved Secret Agent. In spite of many misconceptions about Dalton's tenure in the tuxedo, his take was stripped back and closer to Fleming's literary source, his intense acting style ensuring Bond was getting back to the thriller realm.
The Living Daylights is a great Bond movie, mostly devoid of stupid sight gags and cheese laden quips, it sees Bond back to indulging in glorious fist fights, using brains and brawn to achieve his ends, and with Dalton putting the arrogant swagger back into the man, Bond is sexy and dangerous again. The plot is intelligent, operating on three fronts and spanning across the continents, production values are immense, Barry's final score is a knockout, one of his most atmospheric and the title song by Norwegian pop darlings, a-ha, is energy supreme and became a monster chart hit. Glen's action direction is practically peerless, including an excellent pre-credit sequence (where a training exercise turns bloody) and a mano mano fight between Bond and a baddie aboard an in flight cargo plane, the latter of which is a series highlight. Maryam d'Abo is a good Bond girl, making Kara Milovy brave but also sweetly innocent, the pairing of Dalton and d'Abo works very well.
Where the picture mainly falls down is with the villains, who are just too lightweight to amp up the peril within the plot. Krabbe and Baker are far from being bad or even average actors, but they rarely offer a threat to Bond and it's a stretch to imagine they could seriously trouble him. Elsewhere, Robert Brown continues to lack an edge in the role of M and Caroline Bliss steps into the Moneypenny shoes vacated by Lois Maxwell and struggles to make an impact because the script doesn't allow her too. Big crime, too, is having Felix Leiter finally return only for him to be underwritten and performed by a dull actor (John Terry). One misstep in the film 's plotting sees Bond and Milovy escape from danger by using a Cello case as a sledge, it looks daft and feels like it belongs in one of Roger Moore's cartoonish Bond movies. Much has been made of Dalton being uncomfortable saying the quips, and that's right, it does show, but that is a world away from the Bond he wanted to play. I do wonder if this screenplay was tailored towards Brosnan, who was inches away from getting the gig? Or even a holdover from a script written with Moore in mind?
No matter, Dalton ushered in a Bond of class and intensity and the worldwide box office chimed to the tune of over $190 million, nearly $50 million more than Moore's last film, A View to a Kill. Critics were mixed on the film and with Dalton's take on the Bond role, they failed to see it was a new era and that it was an actor refusing (rightly so) to mimic either of the Bond's that went before him. Fleming purists were much happier, and with that box office take proving, so were movie going Bond fans. 8.5/10