CAST: Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Joe Don Baker, Jeroen Krabbé, John Rhys-Davies, Art Malik, Andreas Wisniewski, Thomas Wheatley, Robert Brown, Desmond Llewelyn, Geoffrey Keen, Caroline Bliss, John Terry, Walter Gotell, Virginia Hey, Julie T. Wallace, Catherine Rabett, Dulice Liecier
RUNNING TIME: 131 mins
BASICALLY…: While investigating a KGB conspiracy, James Bond (Dalton) uncovers an arms deal with major global ramifications…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
With No Time To Die being pushed back all the way to November, the world needs its fix of Ian Fleming’s ace secret agent to tide them over until then. That’s why, every week until it finally comes out, we’re going to be taking a look at each previous movie in the series to see if, and how, they hold up today.
This week, Timothy Dalton becomes the fourth actor to officially become James Bond in The Living Daylights, and after the series low of A View To A Kill this is very much the bolt of energy that the franchise needed to get itself back on track. The tongue-in-cheek tone of the Roger Moore era is all but completely gone, and replacing it is a high-octane action-thriller that takes the series back to a far more grounded sensibility, but still delivering all the golden goods that people love best about this series, with a new lead actor who brings a very different but instantly fresh take on the character.
This one sees Bond (Dalton) be personally requested by KGB General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) to help him defect to the West, so he can spread news of his fellow General Pushkin’s (John Rhys-Davies) apparent plans to eradicate all known enemy spies across the world. However, Bond soon discovers that Koskov’s defection is part of a ruse as part of his partnership with American arms dealer Brad Whittaker (Joe Don Baker), and along with Koskov’s cellist girlfriend Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) he sets out to stop the two of them from putting their international schemes into practise.
There’s no point going on until we talk about how awesome Timothy Dalton is in this film; worlds away from the campiness of Moore, and even both Sean Connery and George Lazenby’s calmer and more charismatic interpretations, Dalton brings some serious intensity to the character, from his steely-eyed glare to a tone of voice that makes him sound like he’s about to lose his rag at any given moment. This is the first time that Bond truly feels like an intimidating presence, given Dalton’s rough and imposing physicality in fight sequences as well as his much colder personality compared to the previous actors that also pays tribute to the fact that, at the end of the day, James Bond is a trained killer who can and most likely will get the job done at whatever cost. However, Dalton also has an incredible level of charm that balances out the intensity enough so we can see that he is still a human being, with him and co-star Maryam d’Abo sharing some very solid chemistry together, the kind of which hasn’t been seen since the last great Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, and when the time comes for him to drop the odd one-liner it feels a lot more natural coming from him, because he makes it seem like something Bond would come up with on the spot compared to the more scripted delivery whenever Moore said something amusing. Dalton’s Bond is a welcome change of pace for a series which up until now seemed to be running on fumes, and the new lead actor does a great job at setting up a very different take than we’ve seen before.
The rest of the film is thankfully just as awesome as Dalton is; this is probably director John Glen’s most impressive work on Bond to date (having directed the last three entries, as well as the next entry Licence to Kill), with each location from the rooftops of Tangier to the deserts of Afghanistan to even a fairground in Austria being used to their fullest potential during many of the intense and explosive action sequences. They go hand-in-hand with a story that keeps you interested because not only are the characters lots of fun – d’Abo’s Kara is a very competent Bond girl who holds her own against Dalton, while Joe Don Baker and Jeroen Krabbé are lots of fun as the film’s eccentric villains – but the writing, the pacing, the cinematography, the visual effects, the stuntwork, and practically everything else is on point, making the series feel truly alive once more. Glen’s direction with the other films up to this point has usually been serviceable at best, but for this he seems to have really woken up for the first time to give us explosions, chases and more which actually feel suspenseful, intense, and most of all fun; the opening sequence alone is a thousand times more thrilling than anything in A View To A Kill, followed swiftly by A-ha’s catchy-as-hell title track.
Not much else can be said about this film other than what has already been discussed in as much detail as I can possibly give; The Living Daylights is a pure fun ride from start to finish, a breath of fresh air following the mixed results of the Moore era with a new lead actor who brings something unique and thrilling to the iconic role, and he is matched by some awe-inspiring action, fun characters and a gripping story that you’re increasingly interested in. In terms of pure entertainment value, this one is definitely up there because it really felt, for the first time in a while with this series, I was having fun watching it without finding it tedious or repetitive, and it also felt like the series was finally doing something a little different after spending so many movies following a strict formula; in short, it left me both shaken and stirred.
SO TO SUM UP…
The Living Daylights is a fantastically entertaining action-thriller that’s packed with awe-inspiring action, a gripping story and likeable characters, fronted by an excellent Timothy Dalton whose radically different take on James Bond is a welcome change of pace which is both fiercely intense but also incredibly charming at the same time.