The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum
thevideovacuum

THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (1987) ***

For many Bond fans, Timothy Dalton’s arrival as James Bond must’ve been a breath of fresh air. Personally, I love Roger Moore as much as anybody, but even I had to admit that having a younger, tougher Bond was a nice change of pace. It’s just a shame that Dalton’s first Bond film never quite finds its footing. While Dalton grew into the role nicely in his second outing, Licence to Kill, unfortunately it wound up being his last.

The Living Daylights never quite knows what it wants to be. The film was originally written with Moore in mind, so there is some of the usual silliness found in the Moore movies here. Since the dead serious Dalton was cast, some of the comic moments (like the cello case escape) fall flat. The comic shtick given to other cast members (like the lusty security guard) works better and Q (Desmond Llewelyn) has a handful of nice moments. But overall, the tone doesn’t quite gel.

The flick suffers from some obvious producer meddling too. In The Living Daylights there was a conscious effort to address the AIDS epidemic, so Bond is more or less a one woman man in this. To me, this is completely unnecessary. Bond is, and always should be a fantasy character. There should be no reason why you would shortchange his sexuality. And besides, the man sleeps with a gun under his pillow, so I’m sure he knows how to protect himself in bed.

Another thing that holds the film back is its muddled plot. At first you think the film’s about “Smiert Spionem”, a Russian plot to assassinate enemy agents. But we eventually learn it’s just a smokescreen for the villains’ true aim: Selling arms and smuggling opium. The trouble is, the Smiert Spionem stuff is a lot more intriguing than all that arms dealing shit. And plus, the stakes never really seems all that high, so it’s hard to care about the shenanigans of the sniveling Russian general Georgi (Jeroen Krabbe) and the rube arms dealer Whitaker (Joe Don Baker, who later turned up in the Brosnan series playing a different character).

Despite its flaws, The Living Daylights is still rather engrossing for the first hour and a half. Bond’s introduction is pretty awesome, the Aston Martin chase is a lot of fun, and it was nice seeing Bond engaging in some old fashioned Cold War style espionage. But once 007 hooks up with some Afghani freedom fighters, the whole movie just kinda falls apart. With the exception of the cargo plane fight, nearly all the action in the last half hour of the film is lackluster. And what’s with the end where Bond says there’s nowhere to land the plane but after he jettisons the jeep from the cargo hold there’s a big ass road right there? And Bond’s final confrontation with Whitaker is especially lame.

As for the new cast members, John Terry is probably the all-time worst Felix Leiter. You’d think teaming up Hawk the Slayer with James Bond would be awesome, but Terry looks pretty out of it. The good news is that the new Miss Moneypenny (Caroline Bliss) is hot. I also really liked her interaction with Bond. There’s a particularly funny bit where she tries to tempt James by asking him to come over to her place and listen to her Barry Manilow collection.

But for all of its faults, The Living Daylights works more often than not. Despite the rather dry and chaste approach, there’s still enough of the old school gimmickry here to make it worth a look. If anything, the film is proof that there’s no such thing as a bad James Bond movie.

Anyway, here’s the REAL James Bond review:

The Pre-Opening Title Sequence. It’s one of the best. Bond is on a training mission when an assassin infiltrates the group and starts picking them off one by one. He later escapes in a truck full of explosives and Bond jumps on the roof. Naturally Bond makes short work of him and makes a daring escape out of the truck via parachute. ****

The Opening Title Sequence. Like the movie itself, it’s a bit chaste. All the girls in the title sequence are overdressed as most of them wear one piece bathing suits. (One chick even wears a gaudy sunhat.) I did like the one babe floating in a giant glass of champagne, but even she was overdressed for the occasion. **

The Song. Next to The Man with the Golden Gun, I think “The Living Daylights” is the most underrated Bond song. Of course, a-ha is trying a bit too hard to sound like Duran Duran. That’s not exactly a bad thing though. ***

Bond. Timothy Dalton is great at playing the physicality of the character. He has a license to kill and he looks like he’s ready to use it. However, Dalton has some trouble with the humorous aspects of the character and stumbles over some of the one-liners. (“He got the… boot!”) I will say I did like the eye roll he does occasionally, which shows he does have SOME sense of humor. Since Dalton’s next entry, Licence to Kill is my second favorite Bond movie, I’ll cut him some slack. *** ½

The Gadgets. The Living Daylights contains my all-time favorite gadget, a rocket launcher disguised as a boombox called “The Ghetto Blaster”. Too bad Bond never uses it in the field. He also gets an exploding keychain and gets to bring the old Aston Martin out for a spin too. ****

Bond Girls. Maryam d’Abo is easy on the eyes, but she’s a bit on the bland side. She’s much too innocent and lacks the fire of the best Bond girls. In fact, she’s probably my least favorite Bond girl ever. I mean I know the producers were trying to turn Bond into a one-woman man with this one, but couldn’t they have picked someone that would be his equal in some way at least? (Think Diana Rigg, Michelle Yeoh, or Halle Berry.) **

Action. The Aston Martin chase is a winner, but the follow-up escape via cello case is a bit goofy. I don’t even think Roger Moore could’ve sold that one. Once Bond goes to Afghanistan, a lot of the fights, shootouts, and explosions get a bit repetitive. (The fight on the cargo plane being the lone exception.) And the final confrontation with Whitaker is fucking pathetic. **

M. M (Robert Brown) does his briefing at the safe house and then does the customary meeting in his office. He doesn’t really have a lot to do in this one, unfortunately. I did like the part in the pre-opening title sequence where he issued the 00’s orders and when they jumped out of the plane, all of the papers on his desk went everywhere. ** ½

Villain. The Living Daylights features the worst lot of villains ever to be found in a Bond movie. That more than anything is probably the reason I rank it so low. Jeroen Krabbe’s constant mugging is annoying and Joe Don Baker’s Whitaker (who plays with toy soldiers) is a complete joke. * ½

Villain’s Plot. It’s muddled and more than a bit low key. It involves double crosses, deception, arms dealing, and opium smuggling. It’s a bit lacking for a Bond flick. **

Villain’s Lair. It’s just a mansion, but there is a pool so a bunch of hot girls hang out there in bikinis. **

Villain’s Henchmen. Yet another standard issue blond hair musclebound dude, but at least this guy strangles people with a Walkman. **

Martinis. Bond drinks one, but it’s drugged. ***

Bond Movies Ripped Off. The Living Daylights’ plot relies heavily on Cold War espionage. Because of that, it’s sorta in the vein of From Russia with Love. The Aston Martin scene is reminiscent of Goldfinger and since it takes place in the snow it brings On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to mind.

The Living Daylights is my least favorite Bond film, putting it right behind Never Say Never Again.

Tags: action, james bond series, l, sequel
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