The Bond Films – “The Living Daylights” (1987) Review

General Georgi Koskov: I’m sorry, James.  For you I have great affection, but we have an old saying:  duty has no sweethearts.

James Bond: We have an old saying too, Georgi.  And you’re full of it.

What’s it About?

James Bond is living on the edge to stop an evil arms dealer from starting another world war.

The Living Daylights 

Directed by John Glen

8 out of 10

By Vic

The Living Daylights is the 15th Bond entry and the first of 2 films that starred Timothy Dalton as James Bond. I wish he had done more. The studio took a gamble that paid off in getting Dalton to bring an edgier, leaner Bond back to the big screen. Fortunately for all involved Roger Moore decided to hang it up with the Bond movies (He was close to 60 years old) after the ridiculousness of “A View to a Kill” which was a critical and financial let down.

Moore did 7 films overall and for the most part his Bond was a long running gag, it seemed, until “For Your Eyes Only” which was the best Moore Bond in my opinion. Moore should have stopped there. He didn’t. Much to our astonishment. But, oh well he did have a good run and we had to move on since we all wanted more Bond and more Bond girls.

The first thing I loved right away was that the movie was a genuine spy picture and not an unintentional parody of itself. We get a very cool intro involving a training exercise in Gibraltar. Here we are introduced to the stoic and deadly serious  “M” played by Robert Brown as the head of MI:6.  He gives his paratroopers their instructions and has them jump out of an airplane to descend on awaiting soldiers with paint guns.

But in typical action movie fashion some jerk has real ammunition and is ready to do some damage to the double O’s that are unaware it’s open season on British spies. This opening is fast and full of well choreographed action as we are introduced to our new Bond – Timothy Dalton. He’s fast, pissed and seriously wants to get the asshole who just did his mates in. And he does and soon after of course he lands on a yacht and convinces a bored woman that he is a “Real Man.”

I must admit, I wasn’t too keen on the “A-Ha” tune at first but it grew on me. It became catchy and after I purchased the Bond songs compilation CD a few years back it became one of my favorites behind Duran Duran’s and Sheryl Crow’s entries.

Right after the opening we get a somewhat faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s short story “The Living Daylights” It basically involves a Russian defector who frames his girlfriend Kara Milovy (Maryam D’abo) as an assassin. The defection though is not all that it seems to be since General Koskov  played by Jeroen Krabbe (The Fugitive) is blaming the innocent General Pushkin (John Ryhs Davies – Raiders of the Lost Ark) for putting out a hit on British Spies known as “Smert Shpionam.” Davies replaces Walter Gotell (General Gogol) after Gotell fell ill and could not work. After Koskov is re-captured Bond gets very suspicious and starts to tail Kara to get close to Koskov and pose as his old friend.

Former model D’abo is a bit weak as a Bond girl. She is too timid, quiet and at times too doe-eyed. She starts to really come into herself once she starts to figure out Bond’s intentions. She plays strongly off of Dalton and by the third act she is pretty much playing his equal. Dalton, though continues to impress. His seriousness and anti-establishment leanings are fun to watch as he bends the rules, rubs a co – agent the wrong way and defies orders.

For example he gets Koskov out of the country using a very busty Russian double agent to entice a watchmen and off goes Koskov in a small tube in the Russian oil pipe-line. Great stuff. These little bits of levity are welcome but I loved the straight tone of the film. Even “Q” played by the ever lovable Desmond Llewelyn gets into the lighter moments as he introduces Bond to the latest spyware gadgets like my favorite – A large boom box with Missiles. “Something we are making for the Americans. It’s called a Ghetto-Blaster!” Just fucking brilliant.

So, on with the rest of the cast. I really liked that they let us have, for once, a very cute and attractive Ms. Moneypenny here with the lovely Caroline Bliss. Bliss is at first a bit stiff but settles in nicely as she starts to flirt with Dalton and obviously she shows us that she pines for him as he turns to leave. She gives us the goo goo eyes and pouty lips. As the action and story nicely progress (after a long stunt filled chase scene in the snow and over a frozen lake using Q’s tricked out car) we end up in Afghanistan and we watch Joe Don Baker chew the scenery as the militant and sometimes buffonish arms dealer Brad Whitaker.

He gets what’s coming to him as he double deals and back-stabs to no end. The big surprise for me was Art Malik as Kamran Shah as a leader of the Mujahideen. Art steals every scene he’s in starting as a lowly, dirty prisoner of war then being outed as a military leader in disguise. He and Dalton butt heads but Art’s loveable nature and his devotion to his cause (that involves Opium and Russian figureheads) is very believable.

So, to wrap it up, The Living Daylights is very good and the last “Cold War” entry of the franchise. John Barry’s score is hip but repetitive at times. He gives the movie sufficient momentum during a few tracks like the plane chase during the movie’s finale. I rather admire Barry for his long run as the stand out composer of the Bond films. (David Arnold as well). The finale is rousing fun with a great attack on the Russian airfield and Bond’s desperate attempt  to stop a bomb and drugs from leaving the country.

So, there are bombs, bullets, camels, horses and a great climactic fight between Dalton and the dude with the small feet from “Die Hard” – Andreas Wisniewski as the deadly “Necros” (why are all these henchmen  blonde?) who gives it all he has to try and defeat Bond. The stunts are great and the action very entertaining. The last showdown between Bond and Whitaker is just plain hilarious. “He met his Waterloo”

So, enjoy this first of 2 Timothy Dalton entries, gang. It’s a goodbye to the Cold War Bond films and it works in all the right places. Recommended.

25 comments

  1. Nice wrote up,Vic. I probably saw this years ago, but unsure. I like Bond but not a huge fan. Though I own at least 1 film per actor to play Bond (2 Brosnan, Die Another Day & The World Is Not Enough) and I also have both Craig movies.

    Believe it or not none with Connery. Kinda ran out of cash lol I’ll get to him soon enough.

    Like I said I probably saw this years ago, but I need to revisit these movies. Nice write up.

    I’be gotten lazy, but soon I will post a few reviews. Got some good stuff planned!

    • Thanks. I’m looking forward to what you have lined up. We all get a little lazy with reviewing. Sometimes we just need to re-charge a bit. Most people do not realize that it takes a lot out of us when we do in depth write ups. I believe I have all the Bond films in one format or another. DVD, Blu Ray and such. I have the Connery Bonds on DVD for sure. I love the Craig entries. I may do Casino Royale next. Or Never Say Never Again. Thanks for reading and the RT.

      – Vic

  2. Amazingly (To some) as big a movie fan that I am, I own NO Bond films at all. And I haven’t even seen a Bond film since “Goldeneye”. I did see most of the Moore films theatrically since my dad was a fan & some of the Connery films on TV but I have never seen any of the Dalton films. I never was much of a Bond fan but this is a great write up! It summed up the film very nicely & who knows? Maybe I’ll bite the bullet & actually watch this one! Great work Vic!

    • Thanks, Black Saint! You could do worse than watching the Dalton Bond films. The Craig films are great too. Enjoy. Check them out and get back to me.

  3. Great work on this Victor, love your bond reviews and im a skeptic on dalton. Youre making me so enthused about the pending bluray release, keep doing this, i love it!

    • Ha! Thanks so much, man. I’m glad you like the Bond reviews. I love doing them. Unfortunately Dalton only had 2 chances to prove to us he was worthy of playing Bond. He never was able to really settle in. I think you might like his version of Bond. I found there to be a few similarities between his take on Bond and Daniel Craig’s.

  4. 8/10, wahoo!!! I’m a card-carrying member of the Dalton-is-Best-Bond club so yeah, I LOVE this movie! I like what you said about this being a ‘genuine spy picture and not an unintentional parody of itself.’ Right on! And Dalton is a gritty, no-nonsense Bond who is suave, elegant but a real bad ass at the same time. Plus he’s just sooo GORGEOUS to look at, just like Connery was. If it weren’t for Joe Don Baker as the super cheesy general, this movie is A++ in my book!

    • Yeah, Joe Don Baker chewed the scenery quite a bit didn’t he? Haha. I’m glad you liked it! I was so disappointed that Dalton wasn’t going to return after LTK. He indeed was gritty and stone cold serious when he needed to be. In some ways he exhibited the qualities that foreshadow Craig’s take on Bond. I will always hold Dalton’s entries in high regard. Thanks so much for your kind words, Ruth! I had a blast writing this one up. 🙂

    • It was old school! Very Cold War. Dalton was so refreshing and intense. A genuine template to Craig’s interpretation.

      I must admit, though, that I’ve not done a Bond review in quite a while. These older reviews are a bit cursory and breezy. Not very in depth and terribly analytical lol. Thanks for checking in and the feedback!

      • I liked the gritty side to Dalton’s brief tenure. And don’t do yourself down Vic, your reviews are very good. When I did mine, I tried my best to encapsulate my feelings.

      • Dalton had that steely determination that hadn’t been seen since the early Connery Bond films. He ratched it up even more in LTK.

        Thanks for the kind words BTW. I appreciate it! 🙏

      • Thank you! So nice of you to say. I think I’ve gotten better over the years and usually it depends on the title whether or not it warrants a more insightful review or just a quick recap and opinion. If it’s a movie I really enjoyed or hold in high regard then of course I tend to get more in depth.

      • I too believe that my writing style has got better the longer I’ve been blogging. I’ve learnt to structure as best as I can.

      • Exactly! Structure is indeed important. It’s very true one gets better the more they right. We get better at making our point and using the right words to describe our feelings toward a film. When I write I tend to have a Thesaurus handy in order to avoid using the same words and terms over and over again.

      • Ha! Yes, exactly! In my earliest reviews, I noticed a repetition of terms, phrases and words.

      • You definitely should take a look and make comparisons. You may even be surprised by how your style and approach has changed. Then you may even want to pick up on an older style that you can reuse to benefit your newer reviews. That’s why writing is so dynamic.

      • I had the same reservations. I think most bloggers do. These days with my busier schedule, it gets harder to post new content more frequently but I learned that I don’t have to always keep up with everyone else, too. I’ve found my own pace. I may not review every mainstream film like everyone else but I do enjoy reviewing under the radar titles. Usually the more low key fare.

      • I tend to review movies that aren’t so recent, occasionally I will review a new film. But I’ve found my style and I like it.

Sound off in The Den!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s