MOVIE REVIEW | ***BOND WEEK*** The Living Daylights (1987)

“Believe me, my interest in her is purely professional”.

I’m familiar with the Sean Connery and Roger Moore takes on James Bond, because they’re the quintessential James Bonds who have fuelled every parody and piss take for the last few decades. I’m familiar with Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig in the role because their movies have come out during my adult movie going lifetime. Even George Lazenby was kind of familiar based on his notoriety of being an Aussie and only getting one crack at the title. But there’s one James Bond who I knew absolutely nothing about. And that James Bond made his premier with Timothy Dalton donning the tux in The Living Daylights.

During some training exercises, an MI6 agent replaces his paint ball pallets with actual bullets and James Bond is the only one to make it out alive. Later, when helping General Georgi Koskov (Jeroen Krabbé) defect from the KGB, Bond spots Maryam d’Abo as Kara Milovy, a sexy sniper with a side gig as an opera cellist.

All of these disparate elements quickly come together when Koskov reveals that the new head of the KGB, General Leonid Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies) has reverted back to hard core, Cold War tactics, with a ‘Death to all spies’ policy. Hence the double agent killing spree in the opening scene. Also hence (does that work grammatically?), the cello playing sniper who turns out to be Pushkin’s missus. So you know it’s only matter of time before Bond is tapping that.

There’s opium dealing, arms dealing, the Russian war in Afghanistan, a ghetto-blaster bazooka and all sorts of James Bondery, but this time, there’s a difference. This is the first ‘modern’ James movie I’ve seen in my recent binge. The Connery / Lazenby / Moore years certainly changed and evolved the character, his stories, and how they were told, but they were still uniquely James Bond movies. The Living Daylights is the first in the series where I can see a clear and heavy influence of other movies from the time. Specifically, action movies.

There’s a certain bombast, a definite increase in pace, a frenetic attitude to The Living Daylights that is undeniably a product of the 80s action movies that were packing cinemas at the time. And I really liked the new energy it provided.

It seems that before this time, the James Bond series was isolated in its own little bubble, doing things its own way. And while that way may have been ground breaking and refreshing in the 60s and early 70s, it soon became more than just a little out of touch. The combination of a new actor in the role and this new 80s action attitude, really did work to make this possibly the most exciting of the Bond movies I’ve seen so far.

It also leads to the biggest downside of The Living Daylights. While it might have been attempting a tougher, louder, blockbuster approach, it falls short every now and then, mainly, in the fight scenes. When I see Sean Connery and Roger Moore awkwardly bumble their way through a barley choreographed, barley rehearsed, completely amateur fight scene, I can write it off as a product of its time, when audiences weren‘t expecting anything more. But The Living Daylights came out the same year as movies like Lethal Weapon and Predator, so its goofy approach to action can’t be blamed on the era.

I’m not sure if I liked The Living Daylights. I am sure though, that I’m still no convert to the world of James Bond. But I will say that Timothy Dalton’s version of James Bond might be my favourite so far. I will also say that The Living Daylights is the most entertaining entry in the franchise I’ve seen so far.

Question, by helping the Afghanis in their fight against the Russians, does that James Bond collaborated with al-Qaeda? Discuss.

The Living Daylights
Directed By – John Glen
Written By – Richard Maibaum, Michael G. Wilson

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