- Directed by John Glen
- June 29, 1987
Bond investigates a KGB operation to kill all enemy spies and uncovers an arms deal involving a rogue Russian general and an arms merchant.
Timothy Dalton takes over the role of James Bond in The Living Daylights for the first of two outings. I think Dalton is a fine actor and I think his performance as Bond was good, but the problem is the material. It just kind of fell flat for me as a James Bond movie experience. Bond should be facing high stakes problems with the world hanging in the balance. This was just not that big. An arms deal can be a big deal but the one around which this revolves does not feel like that.
The script itself felt a little generic. I understand they wanted to keep it a little vague since this was probably written before they had an actor confirmed for the role of Bond but the story itself felt like it could’ve been any number of generic action films of the time. The story and events were not tailored to Bond.
Each actor’s Bond has had their own type of relationship with Q (Desmond Llewelyn). By the way I miss those Mr. Wizard style invention exchanges with Q. Anyway, the interaction between Q and Bond is a little like the misbehaving child just misbehaving for fun but both know there’s no meanness involved.
Jeroen Krabbé is normally a fine actor but his performance here as General Koskov is just awful. Bond is this larger-than-life figure and the villains he faces off against should be larger than life villains as well as just serious threats. Krabbé’s performance just comes off as a goof. He is hamming it up every second on the screen the to the point that he doesn’t come off smart enough to pull off a plot of any type let alone be an actual general in any army-even the Salvation Army.
I believe this might’ve been Joe Don Baker’s first appearance in a Bond film. Here he is arms dealer Brad Whitaker but showed up in the Pierce Brosnan films as the completely different character of Jack Wade. Much like Jerome Krabbé his performance was just a little too hammy. Ham can be good such as with the likes of John Colicos or William Shatner but ham as just goofy like happened here not so much.
Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy is the love interest this time around. Kara is a cellist who has been romanced/used by Koskov in his scheme to escape. Why would Koskov pick somebody who is simply a cellist to act as his pretend Russian sniper? It seems like a very bad idea. I know these are works of fiction on the escapist side but that bothered me. Experienced professionals or the best of the best-such as MI-6 and the double O units are supposed to be-would pick up on somebody badly faking it much as Bond did. But apparently it was only Bond and not Saunders (Thomas Wheatley) the guy he was there with as well. I think they could’ve gotten the character into the story in a different way, but we got what we got.
General Gogol (Walter Gotell) returns in what amounts to cameo with John Rhys-Davies showing up as General Pushkin who is the new head of the KGB. The Soviet Union was going away at this time and the world was changing but they had not quite figured out how to do Bond in a world like that yet. They felt a little clunky.
One place where The Living Daylights doesn’t slack is on the action. There is plenty of over-the-top Bond action. Everybody is after Bond and leveling half the countryside or Bond is using some great bit of MI-6 or espionage to accomplish his mission.
I think more often than not before Daniel Craig the Bond theme songs were fantastic. I think the only really real failure was that Madonna one. If you take each one as an example of the music of the era they are all fantastic. I understand musical taste change, but you have to look at it in context of the music of the time. This A-ha Bond theme is just perfect.
The Living Daylights is not a terrible film but it’s not as strong as it could be. I understand they wanted to get the product out and all that but they should’ve taken a little more time to work the script a little bit more to Dalton and his skills and perhaps avoided the goofy performances of Krabbé and Baker.
The Living Daylights is not a bad Bond film but is certainly not as good as it could’ve been. It needed just a few tweaks here and there. Still I will say check this out!