An Article by Ed
131 minutes-Starring Timothy Dalton, Maryam d’Abo, Jeroen Krabbé and Joe Don Baker. Directed by John Glen
After the departure of Roger Moore, it was time yet again for a new James Bond. After an aborted signing of Pierce Brosnan, Timothy Dalton was pegged for the role. He brought a harder, more serious edge to the character than anyone had seen. It was a bold choice on the part of the producers, and one that would pay off nicely, if not for the amount of time one would have hoped.
The Living Daylights stands out in my mind as being possibly the strongest overall debut of a new James Bond (Goldeneye falters in the music department). Pretty much everything works perfect with a great cast and crew turning a very good screenplay into an excellent thriller.
The teaser gets us off to a spectacular start with a great build to Dalton’s intro as Bond. The first two 00s bear a superficial resemblance to Moore and Lazenby and the huge close-up of Dalton is a great “movie star” intro for the actor. The ensuing action scene is a nice bit of stunt work blended nicely with John Barry’s pulsing action theme.
The Bratislava sequence is a great intro to Dalton’s portrayal of Bond (Let’s face it, the teaser is usually there to throw some action the audience’s way before starting the movie). Dalton plays the cool professional every step of the way, casually running roughshod over Saunders but remaining likable as only Bond can. The sequence also is a prime example of efficient storytelling as we are introduced to all but a few of the characters we really need info on for the story in a matter of minutes. It probably also helps that the opening movement of the sequence is taken directly from Fleming. The pipeline ruse is a nice bit of low key humor that also provided a clever resolution for the sequence. All of this is expertly directed with style by John Glen.
The safe house stuff is equally good with the early intro of Necros (and his Walkman) providing a nice bit of character to a stock henchman for the series (silent blond baddies seem to grow on trees in the world of James Bond). The briefing is a good introduction to Pushkin and the film does a good job of making him out to be the apparent villain of the piece. Jeroen Krabbé does good work as Koskov. While some dislike the performance, I think he plays it well, putting on an outwardly jaunty, well meaning disposition to cover the slimy worm he truly is. Bond’s glances at him during this scene are good as well as they clue the audience in that Bond thinks Koskov is full of it. The abduction of Koskov is well done as well with the boisterous, creative kitchen fight leading to a nicely grim one man assault by Necros.
The intro of Kara into the story is nicely woven into the narrative and the film does a good job of showing her as just a normal young woman pulled into the world of international espionage. Maryam d’Abo does a good job, playing the role with a likable, down to earth realism. She reacts in pretty much the same way anybody would when the car she’s riding in turns out to have bullet proof glass and rockets built into the headlights.
She has great chemistry with Dalton (who has always been good at more dramatic stuff) and their scenes end up making the best actual relationship in a Bond film. I’d say it’s even better than the romance in OHMSS since there’s no huge gap where the main girl is absent and certainly better than the one in The World is Not Enough since it let’s Bond be himself throughout as opposed to the rather odd dip into sentimentality the character goes into during that film. Bond is many things but he is certainly not the sentimental type.
The action in the film is handled equally well with the big car chase forty five minutes in providing with enough thrills and laughs for two action scenes. I especially love Dalton’s deadpan reactions to Kara during the chase. He gives a subtly humorous performance as Bond, an approach that works well. Ironically enough given the production history of the film, he comes off as somewhat similar to Brosnan’s Bond in this scene and elsewhere in the film.
One minor fault with the film is the lack of a truly strong villain and the resulting effect this has on the plot. While this has been done before in the series, specifically in Octopussy, the film doesn’t really let us get to know the villains well enough for both of them to work equally. Joe Don Baker does a fair job as Whitaker but basically just sits around sneering until the end. Koskov fares better but isn’t ever truly threatening enough. Hell, they don’t even have the heart to kill him off in the end, though his eventual payoff is very satisfying. Octopussy was able to pull this off by providing two unique villains in the smooth and suave Kamal Khan and the psychotic over, over the top General Orlov. Here though, we get two guys who don’t really stand out all that much.
Minor faults aside, The Living Daylights is a superb debut for Dalton and an overall excellent entry in the series.
Timothy Dalton brings a dark seriousness to Bond that’s a nice breath of fresh air after Roger Moore’s take on the character. He throws in humor but it’s a very subtle type of humor. The scene immediately preceding the car chase is a perfect example as Dalton plays tense frustration very well as Kara struggles to cram her cello into the back seat of the Aston Martin. His line to her at the end of the scene is well delivered and Dalton has some other subtly humorous moments throughout the film. He gets a chance to show off his dramatic skills as well, the hotel scene with Pushkin is perfectly written and acted with Dalton never changing his tone even though he switches game plans. Timothy Dalton brought Bond back down to earth and gave a rich, unique interpretation of the character we hadn’t seen. Truly an excellent debut for an excellent 007.