Friday, November 16, 2012

The Living Daylights - Brooding Angsty Bond

The Living Daylights - 1987

Bond:  Timothy Dalton
Directed by: John Glen
Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli
Theme: "The Living Daylights" performed by a-ha

Connery was the "Man's Man" Bond.
Lazenby was the "Sensitive Renaissance Man" Bond.
Moore was the "Gentleman" Bond.
Timothy Dalton was the "Brooding Angsty" Bond.

I loved this movie when it came out. I was young. The novelty of a new Bond was fun. Watching it now, I noticed two things about Timothy Dalton's performance:
  1. He's really funny. He has some great comic timing.
  2. Man can he overact. I mean damn, son. Ease up a little on the emoting.
Still, he's a good Bond. He just takes himself a little bit too seriously in this movie. (He takes himself a lot too seriously in the next one.) I think he was trying to do what Daniel Craig ultimately succeeded in doing with the part. Dalton just didn't have the subtlety to pull it off, or the right scripts or social context. 

And, of course, he wasn't the producers' first choice to replace Roger Moore. They originally signed Pierce Brosnan. His TV show Remington Steele had just been cancelled, and he was perfect for the part. Except that as soon as it was announced he was going to be Bond, NBC re-optioned Remington Steele. Unwilling to have their Bond also be on a TV show, the producers went with Dalton instead. Without Bond in their TV show, Remington Steele lasted 5 more episodes and was cancelled for good.

A lot was made at the time of Bond's lack of promiscuity in the film. It was the height of AIDS hysteria and they were trying to demonstrate more responsible behavior. He only sleeps with two women! One in the pre-title sequence and one in the main body of the film. Still, that's the same number that Bond bedded in Goldfinger (a third is implied as happening just before the film starts), The Man With the Golden Gun, For Your Eyes Only, and Octopussy. And he only slept with one woman in Diamonds are Forever. So I'm not sure what the big deal was at the time. (Here is a complete list of Bond's on-screen conquests. Bond would add three more one-woman-only films: Goldeneye, Casino Royale, and Quantum of Solace.)

In a departure from the classic formula, the film has two main villains: Jeroen Krabbé as the duplicitous Russian General Koskov and Joe Don Baker as American mercenary and arms dealer Brad Whitaker. Neither of them are trying to take over the world or destroy civilization as we know it. They're just selling arms and opium to the Russian's in Afghanistan and tricking Bond into killing the head of the KGB. Not overly high stakes, but more realistic stakes that are more inline with the Daniel Craig years than Connery, Moore, or Brosnan. 

The always brilliant John Rhys-Davies plays KGB head General Pushkin who took over for General Gogol who moved over into the Foreign Service because the actor who played Gogol in 5 films (plus a henchman in From Russia with Love) was old and could barely handle being in his one scene at the end of the film. For the Impact Theater fans out there, Seth Thygesen's doppelganger Andreas Wisniewski plays the henchmen Necros, another in a long line of buff blond henchmen imitating Robert Shaw in FRWL. Still, he's very versatile. Maryam d'Abo is a passable Bond Girl. If nothing else, she wins the prize for most frequent and breathless utterances of the phrase "Oh James!"

In spite of its flaws, The Living Daylights has a very well laid out plot with lots of surprising and clever twists and turns. The sequence from the opium deal in the Afghan dessert up through Bond crashing the cargo plane into the mountain-side is one of my favorite extended action sequences in all of Bond-dom. I still like this movie a lot, just maybe not as much as I did when it came out.

Personal Rankings: Squeaks in ahead of FYEO because of better action sequences and a more age-appropriate Bond.
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me
  4. Live and Let Die
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. The Living Daylights
  7. For Your Eyes Only
  8. Dr. No
  9. Octopussy
  10. Diamonds Are Forever
  11. A View to a Kill
  12. Thunderball
  13. The Man with the Golden Gun
  14. Moonraker

1987 Context
President: Ronald Reagan
Queen: Elizabeth II

The Simpsons family first appear on The Tracey Ullman Show.

Best Picture Nominees:
The Last Emperor

1 comment:

  1. I still love this movie. It's my third favorite Bond movie after "OHMSS" and "CASINO ROYALE".


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