Woooaa-ohh-ooh-OH, The Living Daylights! … is the first of the two Timothy Dalton Bond films and the start of the second half of my look at all the 007 movies leading up to “No Time To Die”. Given I started this back in July 2017 shows how delayed that film has been, so delayed that I stopped in August 2018 and I’m only just resuming! ANYWAY, The Living Daylights, beyond an extremely catchy opening, certainly takes itself far more seriously than the Moore films that preceded it and delivers a really fun and well-shot action movie instead. Let’s take a look!
British secret agent James Bond helps KGB officer Georgi Koskov defect during a symphony performance. During his debriefing, Koskov reveals that a policy of assassinating defectors has been instated by new KGB head Leonid Pushkin, but as Bond explores this threat, a counterplot surfaces involving a shady American arms dealer and a pair of Russian assassins…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
That’s the look Timothy Dalton’s Bond gives you if you ask about Octopussy.
I always go back and forth on Timothy Dalton’s Bond. Sometimes he’s TOO straight faced, plays it too “realistically” (as realistic as you can get while sledging in a cello case avoiding gunfire, anyway). He has a few humourous quips during the film, but he says them so straight that they feel out of place, instead they should have just fully committed to this new, harder nosed Bond. I do like it, especially coming after some of the Roger Moore stuff it makes it feel fresher, but yeah, sometimes it doesn’t quite work. It makes The Living Daylights a good action-oriented spy film, but less a Bond film, if you know what I mean…
I really enjoy the plot to this film, it has several distinct chapters to it. The opening, where some 00 Agents take part in a mock battle but one of them ends up assassinated for real and then ends in a great chase sequence, is good. The scene where Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) defects and is helped out of the country is fun (especially his reaction to his method of escape: being fired through the gas pipeline) and the follow up scene of Koskov being recaptured by the KGB at a mansion by a killer milkman is exciting… and a little weird.
We eventually find out that Koskov’s defection was a lie in order to frame KGB head Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) and get the British government to kill him, thus starting a war between the two agencies, all the while Koskov and his American arms dealer friend Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) make the profits and can move about easier. Whitaker is a great obnoxious war-obsessed villain, and Necros (Andreas Wisniewski), the aforementioned killer milkman, is a good henchman that’s satisfying to see Bond finally beat. Add in the want to see Koskov “not get away with it” and it’s a very satisfying film.
They’ll be fine! … Well, one of them will be, anyway.
Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) is a good Bond girl too. She’s Koskov’s girlfriend, but is actually being used by him, eventually being forced to pose as a sniper to make his defection seem real, with the idea she’d be killed by Bond during the op. Bond smells a rat and just shoots her gun, and soon the two are escaping together. 007 lies to her, mind you, claiming to be a friend of Koskov so he can learn the truth, so it’s a bit more complex than your usual Bond / Bond girl relationship. I mean, in the by half-way she’s completely on his side and at the end of the film they do a fade-to-credits-but-assume-they’re-about-to-have-sex scene, but there’s still more to it!
The last hour of the film sees Bond and co. in Afghanistan and siding with a local resistance force against Russia, as by this point they faked Pushkin’s death and Koskov managed to get back into the KGB’s good graces by bringing in Bond. Once again there are plenty of good scenes, a prison breakout, an attack on the airfield, and a great series of scenes on a large cargo plane, including Bond and Necros hanging onto a net of cargo out of the back of plane that’s been copied by many a film and game since, it’s all very exciting. In the end Bond confronts the last piece of the puzzle, Whitaker, in his museum of war and ends up killing him with a whistle-controlled keyring bomb (obviously!), then Koskov is arrested by the returning Pushkin.
It really is a great plot, changing focus and location, and twisting just often enough to never get boring or predictable. The opening is wonderfully 80s and extremely catchy, and some of the Q gadgets in the obligatory Q scenes include a boombox that shoots a missile (“That one’s for the Americans!”), so it all feels very of its era, in a very fun way.
“Damn, I wish I could’ve gotten the climactic showdown with Bond instead of this guy…”
A scene where Bond force-strips a woman and places her in front of a door that’s about to be kicked down by a would-be assassin in order to distract said-killer briefly enough to get the jump on him was just uncomfortable, even if it makes sense as a tactic.
Apart from that, nothing stood out to me as bad. Like I said in the opening, if you look for more humour in your Bond then Dalton will not appeal, but as a little break between extra-campy Moore and not-exactly-against-campiness Brosnan this film and the next work well.
“To me drugging you!” “Yes, to- Wait, what?”
The Living Daylights is a really good action film, with a fun and clever twisty plot involving espionage and intelligence agencies (who’d a thunk it?) and some really well directed and shot action set pieces. The only place the film can fall flat is that Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of Bond is far more straight-laced and serious, maybe more so than any other portrayal of the character, so if you’re looking for a bit for fun in the Bond film, this would be one to skip.