Reviews, Vault Reviews — October 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm



Happy Global James Bond Day, stargazers! My original intent was to review a Kate Winslet film for her birthday, but I’m too big a Bond fan to not commemorate his fiftieth birthday. To solve this conflict in the future, 007 producers need to hire Ms. Winslet to be the next big Bond villain. Phenomenal idea, no? Remember you saw it here first!

After surviving an ambushed training exercise in Gibraltar, British Secret Service Agent 007, better known as Bond… James Bond (Timothy Dalton), is assigned to aid Agent Saunders (Thomas Wheatley) in the defection of KBG General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) during a symphony concert. Czechoslovakian cellist/sniper Kara Milovy (Maryam d’Abo), is foiled in her assassination of Koskov during his escape by Bond, but his intuition spares her life. A free Koskov informs MI6 that General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) has re-instituted the Smiert Spionam, a.k.a. Death to Spies, initiative. Before he can divulge any further Russian intelligence, Koskov is abducted by Necros (Andreas Wisniewski). M (Robert Brown) orders Bond to kill Pushkin during his upcoming visit to Tangier, but Bond takes a detour back to Bratislava where he befriends Milovy hoping she may have more insight on Koskov’s disappearance and Pushkin’s murderous motives.

The Living Daylights is the first of two films with Timothy Dalton in the role of James Bond. While officially he is counted among the pantheon of Bonds, I don’t consider an actor truly worthy of the 007 mantle until he’s portrayed the character in at least three films. It takes three for the actor, the character, and the fantastical world to sync and Dalton falls short of this. Dalton shows great double-o-potential in The Living Daylights by imbuing Bond with more anger, but the production prevents a transformative performance. While co-writer Richard Maibaum has been a mainstay of Bond scriptwriting since the series’ inception, his co-writer Michael G. Wilson and the director John Glen had worked primarily on the last three Roger Moore films, and at times you feel the tendency to harken back to Moore’s campy, level-headed Bond.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Moore’s Bond. The Living Daylights sports a more down-to-earth plot and less imposing villain, but Bond still jet sets to exotic locations, plays with nifty gadgets and experiences a healthy portion of playful moments. The hitman Necros killing his victims with headphones and explosive milk; Bond escaping with Milovy to Austria by sledding over the border in a cello case; and Bond under siege by the toys of arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker) satisfy fans need for tongue-in-cheek humor.

Another familiar Bond element present in The Living Daylights is the return of Desmond Llewelyn as Q. The banter between Q and Bond is as enjoyable as ever; better than the flaccid exchange with the newly cast CIA Agent Felix Leiter (John Terry) in a couple of nearly useless scenes.

The action is pretty solid. From fisticuffs to car chases to a full-on battle between the Soviets and the Mujaheddin, Bond holds his own at every turn.? Plus, Dalton does many of his own stunts, which is a far cry from the days of Moore stand-in. The best aspect of The Living Daylights is the chemistry between Dalton and D’Abo. Dalton’s Bond is smooth and when Milovy inevitably succumbs to his charms, it doesn’t feel forced.

Although Dalton didn’t put in enough time as Bond, The Living Daylights is a promising beginning. The title theme by a-ha hit all the right notes to solidify it as a classic Bond theme, and the film hit enough of the notes necessary to make it a Bond film worth watching.


Tags 007Maryam d'AboThe Living Daylights


  • Glad you like it, I have always found the Timothy Dalton Bond movies to be really underrated. They do have their problems but none of those are Dalton. You said “I don’t consider an actor truly worthy of the 007 mantle until he’s portrayed the character in at least three films” I find this a little unfair as Roger Moore played the part seven times but I only rate two of them as being any good and Pierce Brosnan played it four times, I only like the first one. Both Daltons films were solid.

    • Dalton is the reason for my half-assed 3-movie logic. Never cared for License to Kill so once the mantle passed to Brosnan I thought he should at least do 3 to really earn it.

      Moore’s Bond got hokier with each installment, but I couldn’t get enough. He’s right up there with Connery for churning out entertaining films. Sounds like I enjoyed Brosnan’s Bond a lot more than you, too.

      I should revisit all the Bonds. Been a while since I’ve seen them all.

      • I just re-watched Licence to Kill for the first time in years, it has aged well and stands up as a good film. I liked Brosnan as Bond just not his movies, even Goldeneye that I love looks dated now. You can see my overview of the franchise and what is worth seeing HERE.

        • You’ve got me curious now. I’ll definitely add License to Kill to my re-watch list. Thanks for the link, I’ll be sure to check out your franchise recap.

  • You make some good points about the connection to Moore’s final Bond films. The Living Daylights plays a lot straighter because of Dalton’s performance and the love story, but there still are goofy elements. I think it’s a solid movie and an interesting bridge between Moore and Dalton’s great follow-up License to Kill. I’m not sure I agree with you that a Bond needs three films to truly be worthy. I think Craig and Dalton are both there after two films.

    • Thanks. As I mentioned above, not a fan of License to Kill which is what brought about my 3-film standard.

      Craig lost me a little with Solace. I enjoyed him, but the movie left me yearning for some elements of the old Bond days. I am very excited to see Q in Skyfall.

  • Just stopped by after a post on Cinemakatzenjamer linked you. I’m going to link your site because it seems to have a lot of diversity and quality. I’m doing my own 007 project for the 50th anniversary and thought you might want to come by and see whats up. I don’t have a full review of Living Daylights but it is a part of the ranking process I’m working my way through. Here is a link if anyone is interested. Have a great 007 celebration everyone.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I’ll swing by and check it out. Very curious to see your rankings.