Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Living Daylights

Shakespearean actor Timothy Dalton (WUTHERING HEIGHTS) replaced Roger Moore as James Bond in this sprawling adventure filmed in Austria, Morocco, Gibraltar, Italy, England, and the United States. He’s tough, suave, rugged — a very good James Bond, if a little too serious. In addition to a makeover, 007 received a change in his promiscuous lifestyle, sleeping with only one woman in the first post-AIDS James Bond movie.

Bond veterans Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson, along with John Glen, directing his fourth consecutive Bond flick, engineer THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS like true craftsmen. Bond is assigned to rescue Russian defector Koskov (Jeroen Krabbe), and uncovers a Soviet plot to buy high-tech weapons from American arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker, who returned to the Bond fold as a good guy in two Pierce Brosnan movies).

Robert Brown, who played M four times in the interim between Bernard Lee and Judi Dench, is back, as well as Desmond Llewelyn’s Q, Geoffrey Keen’s Ministry of Defence, and Walter Gotell’s General Gogol. The age-appropriate Caroline Bliss replaced Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny, and John Terry (FULL METAL JACKET) is a dull Felix Leiter.

While the plot is something of a snoozer and Baker (WALKING TALL) is a weak villain — one never believes he’s clever or powerful enough to beat Bond — THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS offers two of the Bond series’ most entertaining action setpieces. Bond and a beautiful cellist (the vapid Maryam d’Abo) elude Russian soldiers in a tricked-out Aston Martin that becomes an outrigger (!) and then escape Czechoslovakia into Austria by sliding down a snowy mountain atop a cello case. Later, Bond fights a henchman while grasping netting dangling from the rear of a cargo plane in a breathtaking stunt sequence.

A vast improvement over Moore’s last two Bonds, thanks in part to a vibrant, younger star more convincing in action scenes, THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS opened at #1 at the U.S. box office, as Bond films tend to. It was not a long-term financial success, however, nor was Dalton’s next Bond film, LICENSE TO KILL. John Barry delivered his last 007 score, which effectively mixes orchestral and electronic music, and collaborated uncomfortably with a-ha on the mediocre title song.

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