The Living Daylights (1987)

The Living Daylights (1987) – The Bond franchise on occasion gets caught up on trying to capitalize on what’s new. On occasion this works very well (the parkour chase in Casino Royale). Other times it just gets silly (pretty much all of Die Another Day). The Living Daylights begins with a training exercise with double-0 agents. One looks a little like Roger Moore, another looks a little like George Lazenby. Of course they’re quickly dispatched and James Bond is revealed to be Timothy Dalton in his first of two outings in the role. I saw Licence to Kill a couple weeks before I saw this film and I rather liked Dalton as Bond. But this is a transitional movie… Much like Pierce Brosnan’s first Bond movie, GoldenEye, was written more for Dalton’s take on the character in mine, The Living Daylights could have been tailored more to Moore’s interpretation which by the late 80s had gotten pretty damn silly. Indeed Bond is a little more light-hearted than he went on to be in Dalton’s other Bond outing. The presence of a title song by a-ha (in America known as a one hit wonder for “Take On Me”) didn’t exactly ease my worries about this one…

A Soviet General named Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) defects to the United Kingdom. It’s a tricky extraction from the Eastern Block, especially when a mysterious female sniper opens fire on Koskov. Despite being given a kill order, Bond merely shoots the gun out of her hands. Bond and another agent, Saunders (Thomas Wheatley), get Koskov to England where he is debriefed. Something is not sitting right with Bond though. Koskov tells them that General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) is the one in the Societ command who has been ordering the deaths of several spies. Bond’s past dealings with Pushkin, however, make him suspicious of these claims. Soon Koskov is captured by a thug (Andreas Wisniewski) and returned to the Soviets. Bond gets the order to kill Pushkin, but instead decides to track down the mysterious female sniper from earlier (Maryam d’Abo). And just how does a mysterious arms dealer (Joe Don Baker, who would play a different character in the Brosnan films) figure into this?

Part of the action takes the movie to Afghanistan and much like Rambo III, this involves the hero of the movie fighting alongside the Mujahideen, who would in later years become the Taliban. While many Bond movies go the route of full-on action movie or focus on the outlandish gadgets given to Bond by Q (Desmond Llewelyn), The Living Daylights is more of an espionage thriller than most Bond movies. There are compelling twists and turns and a plot that actually takes some figuring out. Plus, as I repeatedly must mention, Timothy Dalton is awesome. While he never approaches the part as light-hearted as Moore did, giving Dalton a bit of a sense of humor in this one strikes a better balance that ultra-serious Bond of Licence to Kill does. I wish he had made more than two. Anyway The Living Daylights is a very good example of what a Bond movie should be: a handsome and charismatic lead, a beautiful woman who either wants to sleep with or kill him, plot twists, action, gadgets, and all-around awesomeness. This one doesn’t seem to have the same reputation as a lot of the “better” Bond movies but it deserves to. Check it out.

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