The 15th official Bond is the first one with Welshmen Timothy Dalton in the tuxedo. Released in 1987, “The Living Daylights” is directed by John Glen who sat in the chair for most of the 80’s 007 films. Written by Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, who have also been attached to the franchise for a while too. This film is loosely based on the last of the Ian Fleming books “Octopussy and The Living Daylights“, which is a collection of short stories published in 1966. Produced Albert R. Broccoli and his stepson (Michael G. Wilson), this Eon Production had a budget of $40 million and grossed $191.2 million, making it a massive Box Office success.
Bond is assigned to aid the defection of a KGB officer, General Georgi Koskov. While covering the General he notices an attractive blonde cellist aiming a sniper rifle at the General too, so Bond thwarts the potential assassination, which allows Koskov to be whisked away to freedom. Koskov tells MI6 about an old KGB policy of “Smiert Spionam” (Death to spies) which is being implemented to cause international chaos, thus allowing the KGB to advance beyond everyone else in the international intelligence game. Unfortunately Koskov is kidnapped back from the protection of MI6, so Bond sets out to find out what is going on, and to potentially put a bullet in the head of General Leonid Pushkin who is the new head of the KGB. Bonds main lead is the cellist, Kara Milovy, who was taking aim at Koskov before he was taken to MI6. Bond learns that she is actually Koskov’s girlfriend, and the defection was staged. Bond convinces Kara to go to Austria so they can meet up with Koskov, it’s there that he learns about Koskov’s dealings with arms dealer Brad Whittaker. Whittaker is unhappy that the Pushkin and the KGB have cancelled arms deals with him, so he’s been working with Koskov to destabilise Angle-Soviet relations using the “Smiert Spionam” order. Kara betrays Bond to Koskov, he is taken to Afghanistan as prisoner to be used as collateral in an arms deals that Whittaker and Koskov have arranged. Koskov has no loyalty to Kara either so she is thrown into the deal too. Both escape, and because they help another prisoner, Kamran Shah, he in turn helps them escape. It transpires that Shah is the leader of a local Mujahideen (gang). Bond learns that the Koskov is using Soviet funds to buy a massive amount of opium from the Mujahideen, with the intention to keep the profits with enough to make him rich but also to supply Soviets with arms from Whittaker. It’s all about to be put in motion with Koskov and his henchmen making the arrangements at a local airbase. Bond goes after the plane transporting the Opium, Kara and Shah attack the airbase and cause panic and confusion. Koskov ultimately escapes but the drugs and money are gone. Bond decides to go after Whittaker, and after bringing him down Felix Leiter turns up with Koskov. Koskov is arrested, Whittaker is dead, and the world is safe again.
For me Dalton is great as Bond. I know he might not be other people’s cup of tea as 007 but I enjoyed his portrayal. The performance was tense, dark and gritty, much removed from the cheesy performances that Roger Moor brought to the role. Action that he was involved in felt more genuine and believable, at times it looked like he might get overpowered too, which was not something you’d expect to see from some of the almost superhero like performances that followed Moore around. Also, at times he gave the impression of uncertainty as Bond was put into random situations which meant he needed to think on his feet; Dalton was able to portray that uncertainty and naivety really well. In certain situations, through Dalton’s performances, it felt like Bond was reluctant to do certain parts of his job, or certain tasks – this is more like the novelised version of the character. In interviews after the film Dalton admitted that he felt it would be wrong to bring a performance like one of the actors who has previously played the role. So for inspiration he went back to the source material of the novels and found a character that hadn’t fully been seen on screen previously. He found a Bond in book that was a man of contradictions and opposites, one that he based his performances on. Choosing Dalton was a big decision, with Moore approaching his 60’s, and with “007: A View to a Kill” (1985) not being a massive Box Office success, Moore felt it was time to step aside. Conflicting reports suggest that it wasn’t as much Moore stepping away, as it was that Broccoli let Moore go because he wanted a younger, fresher face in the tuxedo.
During the initial search for a new Bond it was narrowed down to 3 people: New Zealander Sam Neill (who would go on to famously star in “Jurassic Park” (1993)), Irish-born Pierce Brosnan (who would one day take the role), and Welshman Timothy Dalton. Financial backers MGM suggested Mel Gibson, but Broccoli wasn’t keen at all. He also wasn’t really that keen on Neill despite him being in the final 3 options, he wanted Brosnan. At the time Brosnan was connected to TV series “Remington Steele” but waning viewing figures meant it was going to be cancelled by NBC. When it was noticed that Brosnan might be the next Bond, viewing figures for “Remington Steele” suddenly shot up again, meaning that Brosnan was in demand and couldn’t agree to the role. Dalton was Dana Broccoli’s suggestion, Albert wasn’t initially sold as Dalton didn’t have the best public interest so he went unsigned for a while as he had commitments to “Brenda Starr”. He was offered it again after “Brenda Starr” but as he didn’t immediately sign, Robert Bathurst (“Joking Apart”, “Cold Feet“, and “Downton Abbey“) was interviewed for the role. Bathurst believed his interview was just a way to twist Dalton’s arm into signing, which he eventually agreed to.
Alongside Dalton, ex-model Maryam d’Abo was cast as Kara Milovy, who does a great job. Jeroen Krabbe played General Koskov well, portraying a devious but intelligent foe. Arms dealer, Brad Whittaker was played by Joe Don Baker. His performance did well to show him as a maniac mastermind that on the surface seemed reasonable but when angered could lose the plot. John Rhys-Davies played the new head of the KGB, General Leonid Pushkin. Rhys-Davies is a commanding actor that has the ability to steal scenes and his inclusion here was great. You’ve also got good performances from others, such as Art Malik as Kamran Shah, and Andreas Wisniewski as Necros, Koskov’s main henchman. Regular characters Q and M are once again performed by Desmond Llewelyn and Robert Brown. Walter Gotell makes a small cameo as General Gogol at the end of the film – albeit as a diplomat now instead of a General. Caroline Bliss takes over as Moneypenny, and John Terry takes on the role of Felix Leiter for this film.
John Barry is once again the main musical composer for this Bond film. One of the innovations he works with this time is electronic synth rhythm overdubbed with his regular orchestra. The title song of “The Living Daylights” was performed by Norwegian pop group A-Ha. A little bit of pointless knowledge now; the A-Ha logo used in the opening credits was the first and last time a musical artists logo was used in the credits – normally it’s just the same font as the regular credits. Another musical pointless fact; this film used a different song over the opening and end credits, with Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders singing “Where has everybody gone?“. This was also the song heard from Necro’s Walkman in the film too.
It’s no doubt that this film was a commercial success but it received mixed reviews from the critics. Some felt that Dalton’s approach was too dark and didn’t offer enough humour. Some argued that Whitaker was a poor villain and belittled the film, or that there wasn’t really a typical Bond girl in the film – which is true, Bond doesn’t randomly bed loads of women in this film. Ignoring all this I want to state that I personally really enjoyed this film. It’s one of my favourites in the Bond franchise. It feels like a return to the espionage thrillers that came about in the book versions of Bond. The pace of the film is great and continuously moves forward with either tension, thrills or action. The cast all doe a great job. The mise-en-scene is great with some beautiful locations used for the backdrops. All in all this is a great film, one that Dalton even referred to as “a bloody good film“. If the Moore portrayals of Bond are the comic book versions, then Dalton’s performance here is the grown up, adult version of Bond. Gritty, tense, thrilling.
Title Song: The Living Daylights – A-ha
In terms of Bond films this is a 8 out of 10.
In terms of movies in the long and illustrious history of film I would give this a 7 out of 10.
Bond, James Bond, 007 – Ranking
|1||007: Goldfinger (1964) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|2||007: The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: A View to a Kill (1985) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Dr. No (1962) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Living Daylights (1987) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: From Russia with Love (1963) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|3||007: Thunderball (1965) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Moonraker (1979) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|4||007: You only live twice (1967) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Diamonds are Forever (1971) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: For Your Eyes Only (1981) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|–||007: Octopussy (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|007 (Unofficial): Never Say Never Again (1983) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐|
|5||007: Live and Let Die (1973) ⭐⭐⭐⭐|