The James Bond series was a monumental series for me growing up and, as I planned on featuring one of the 20+ films in the series as a Key Movie, I just couldn’t choose. Since I can’t choose a single one, I am reviewing each and every Bond film continuing with today’s entry, The Living Daylights
Welcome to Key Movies Of My Life James Bond Edition.
Today’s Key Movie:
With three Bond actors in the bag, we come to the first of two films to feature Timothy Dalton as the famed British Secret Agent, James Bond.
Sent to Czechoslovakia to assist in the defection of Russian General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe), Bond soon discovers a plot to start a third world war and must do all he can to stop it.
Why this movie?
While I had already been watching Bond films with my father for much of my life at this point, this was my first Bond film that I saw in theaters. I vividly remember my father being excited that a new Bond film was being made and that a new actor would be taking over the role. We had already seen Dalton in films such as Flash Gordon we really hadn’t had a chance to get to know him as an actor. When Dalton first graced the big screen, we knew that this man was without a doubt, James Bond himself.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
After nearly a decade of the more campy Bond under with Roger Moore, The Living Daylights takes on a more serious tone using the 80’s Cold War as a backdrop. Sure, there is some humor along the way, but overall it plays as much more of a true action Spy Thriller than the previous decade’s entries. With this, the plot, which has a considerable amount of twists and turns, comes across as a little slower than many of the previous films. This, combined with Dalton’s freshman appearance as the lead character, gives many people a bad taste in their mouths for the actor and his films. This is rather unfair seeing that, in many ways, The Living Daylights was Eon’s attempt at a soft revival of the franchise, attempting to get it back on track to the pre-Roger Moore installments.
Even though the campy tone is gone, the gadgets are back and in full force this time, even showcasing a rocket launching ‘Ghetto Blaster’, in Q’s laboratories. One of the best gadgets to return comes in the form of our old friend the Aston Martin DBS. Packed to the gills with rockets, lasers and various other high tech additions, the Aston Martin proves itself once again to be Bond’s real weapon of choice. While Bond manages to, once again, destroy the car only after a short use, this will not be the last time we see this iconic vehicle.
The main villains in this film are arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) and Soviet General Koskov (Krabbe). Setting up KGB General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) as a target for Bond, Koskov and Whitaker plan to start war in order to get General Pushkin out of the way allowing them to take control. It is a rather loose plot setting up the villains as little more than macguffins for Bond to search for giving Dalton’s Bond a chance to show his abilities in the role of the secret agent. While Dalton did a great job with the role, sadly, never once did I get the feeling that anyone was really in danger or that anything was really at stake for the entirety of the film, leaving it as a rather bland entry in the overall breadth of the series.
A few things of note however is that there have been some interesting updates with this changing of the guard. While it may not have been intentional, one major change is in how our lead character treats women. While Bond has been known as a womanizer for much of the series, Dalton’s Bond comes across as somewhat more respectful of women than any of his predecessors. He, of course, makes attempts to romance the films Bond Girl Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo) but manages not force himself into her bed through much of the film, actually allowing the two to get to know one another before they eventually sleep together. While not perfect, it is a rather refreshing change in a franchise that is marred with the overt misogyny of the title character.
Another change is that of Moneypenny. For the first time in the official franchise, a new actor has taken the role that belonged to Lois Maxwell for fourteen consecutive films. To date, no other actor has played the role as long as Mrs Maxwell. Replacing Maxwell is actor Caroline Bliss. Bliss, along with Dalton, only lasts two films but she remains memorable in her role. Additionally, Felix Leiter makes his return but this time played by John Terry. This marks the seventh appearance and sixth actor to play the role in the official series.
Finally, every bond film has a theme song and this one certainly isn’t the exception. Performed by A-Ha, the title song, The Living Daylights is a solid one with the opening credit sequence designed in a way that hearkens back to the Goldfinger era of the franchise. While the title track isn’t one of A-Ha’s best songs, that honor is reserved for Take on Me, it is still a memorable one.
Overall, The Living Daylights is a rather bland story with an action packed ending that almost makes up for the less than exciting first two thirds of the film. That being said, it has it’s moments and is a a rather fun attempt to bring in a new Bond actor. Making only two Bond Films, Dalton may not be the best in the franchise, but he is certainly not the worst. This one is worth watching at least once.
OK, where do I get this movie?
You can grab this one in the two disc set entitled The Timothy Dalton Collection which includes the second film, License to Kill. For around $20, as a fan, it is totally worth it.
As normal, the trailer:
Late To The Game 4/18/2019
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