Fan Reviews - The Living Daylights

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"The Living Daylights" by timdalton007

With the announcement that Roger Moore was leaving the series, many fans of the long running Bond film franchise were left to wonder what was next for the series. With over twelve years of comedic 007 adventures, opinions among many fans were for a return to the more serious films of the early Connery era. The hopes of fans were realized with this film that began a new era in the world of 007.

The change begins with the actor playing James Bond: Timothy Dalton. Dalton is perhaps the closest actor in terms of vision to Ian Fleming's idea of Bond. He certainly looks the part, with his scalp of wild black hair and his piercing blue eyes, and one can actually visualize him as a secret agent with his agile and strong form. Not only that, he also has the acting chops. Dalton's Shakespearean and stage training come into use perfectly here. Just look at where Bond is at the fair, having lost Saunders's murderer amongst the crowd and found the balloon with Smyert Spionam scrawled over them. The eyes say everything. Dalton relies more and more on his acting ability and not jokes and gadgets to pull the character trough the film. Despite this being his first film as Bond, we get the feeling that he's been playing the part for years with his mastering of the character. Gone are the bad jokes of Moore and in is the seriousness and the occasional intelligent humor. This is how Bond should be: serious, intelligent, and with intelligent jokes. Dalton is also great in the action sequences and his belief that he should do as many of his stunts as possible makes it hard to determine when its him and when its a stuntman. He can throw a good punch and, unlike Moore, look like he knows what he's doing.

The change continues on with the Bond girl Kara Milovy. After the average Bond girls of Holly Goodhead, Octopussy, and the worst Bond girl of the series in AVTAK this girl is a 180-degree turn around. Maryam d'Abo may not have had a lot of acting experience before this but she is a good actress. Her character goes far beyond being just eye candy. She's realistic. She's an average woman who is drawn into this world on intrigue, action, and danger. Kara is an innocent brought into it all by a man she cares for deeply and whom she owes everything to. Bond isn't just a dominating figure who must seduce her as in FRWL, he's the man who has brought her into the world where she is free to show off her talent for all the world to see. She is also very beautiful and while she isn't the smartest Bond girl of them all, she does prove to be resourceful and unlike many of the Bond girls doesn't manage to just hang onto Bonds shoulder and scream for help. That and her gradual relationship with Bond provides one of the series few true love stories.

If the film has a fault in it, it would have to be the villains. While both Jeroen Krabbe and Joe Don Baker are great actors, this isn't there shinning moment. Both of the characters of General Georgi Koskov and Brad Whitaker are too un-villain like to be bad guys. Any menace that Koskov might have had is ruined by the fact that he is constantly kissing everyone on the cheek. Brad Whitaker is also too weird to be a villain. He is in many respects the ultimate military historian and in another the craziest. At least unlike Koskov, he does have a great final showdown with Bond during the fantastic gun battle at the films end.

The supporting cast is also excellent. Andreas Wisniewski is great as Necros. He is menacing and despite being an obvious take on Red Grant from FRWL, he manages to be original. John Rhys-Davies and Art Malik are fantastic as the allies of the film. Both actors are initially suspicious to us, but when they are revealed as allies they are the ones we want on Bond's side. Too bad we didn't see more of them. And let's not forget Thomas Wheatley as Saunders. He is the ultimate bureaucratic agent. But he can get the job done and he's so good that when he becomes the film's sacrificial lamb we feel for his loss. As for Caroline Bliss and John Terry it is hard to find good things to say. Both were replacements for well-known and beloved characters in the series and it wasn't going to be easy. Here they failed. Neither has enough screen time to establish them in the parts and when they are on screen they are lousy at best. We do have good performances from M, Q, and, for the last time, Gray and they help to add a sense of continuity to the film.

The film's storyline and action is top notch. After years of outrageous plots and action sequences, there is a heavy sense of realism. The plot is one of the series best. True it is very complicated and at time shard to follow, but so where some of Fleming's plots. But the complicated plot is a down side to what is other wise a great Bond film.

The action sequences are among the best in the series. The film’s teaser featuring the training exercise and later chase on Gibraltar is the best since TSWLM and the best until GoldenEye. The Aston Martin car chase is not only the best car chase since FYEO but also the triumphant return of the classic Aston Martin. While the car has gadgets, they are at least believable and the chase features the classic scene of the police car being split in half and Bond and Kara escaping over the border in the cello case. Other great action scenes include the roof top chase in Morocco, the battle at the Afghan airbase, and the gun battle between Bond and Whitaker. But the films best action sequence is the cargo net fight at the film’s end. The excellent editing together of the aerial footage and footage shot in the studio puts together the best fight sequence since the beach fight in OHMSS. Despite the ton of action, the film’s plot never suffers and makes this perhaps the best-paced Bond film.

There is also the matter of John Barry’s score. Barry’s last Bond score to date is also his best since DAF. It is largely action based making excellent use of the main title theme song, the song “Where Has Everybody Gone?” and the James Bond Theme and taking a heavy synthesizer feel. That the score a feel of being both modern and yet a classic feeling. But perhaps the films best music is the romantic music used in the scenes between Bond and Kara. Based on the song “If There Was a Man” it is one of Barry’s best romantic pieces. There is also the suspenseful music used in the desert sequences that, while featuring the synthesizer feel of the action scenes, still feels in place and reminds the listener of Barry’s classic suspense music.

The films songs are a mixed bag. The main title theme, a musical collaboration between Barry and the rock group aHa, is a good main title song. It is heavily rock though and the lack of an orchestral feel hurts the song considerable and it pales in comparison to the main title song from AVTAK. The films other two songs, “Where Has Everybody Gone?” and “If There Was A Man”, while being great to listen to, feel out of place in a Bond movie.

Despite weak villains, a couple of questionable supporting players, a rather complicated plot, and a mixed song bag, this film delivers. With Timothy Dalton’s grand performance as Bond, Maryam d'Abo as Kara, a good supporting cast, great action scenes, and a great score, The Living Daylights delivers a classic Bond adventure that ranks just outside the top five classic films.


"The Living Daylights" by Luds

Following Roger Moore’s final outing as Bond (A View To A Kill) in 1985, producer Albert R. Broccoli faced the task of finding a new James Bond. Roger Moore had been filling Sean Connery’s shoes as James Bond from 1973 to 1985 and was simply too old for it. Broccoli’s choice was Irishman Pierce Brosnan who soon became unavailable as NBC heard about EON’s interest in Brosnan and decided to renew their TV series Remington Steele. As it turns out, this would become one of the greatest things that ever happened to the Bond franchise: Broccoli signed Welshman Timothy Dalton, a candidate who had auditioned for the role in 1968 for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (before turning it down as he didn’t feel ready for it) and in 1982 for Octopussy (as Roger Moore was holding out for a more lucrative deal). Timothy Dalton became the fourth actor to portray James Bond on the big screen, and was a Fleming fan.

Dalton wanted to bring more realism and grit to the character, trying to portray Fleming’s real adaptation of James Bond: a character who was vulnerable, clearly not perfect, but a fantastic agent whose only preoccupation was to do his job. This portrayal of Bond was arguably delivered on screen during the Sean Connery films, but drastically disappeared during the Roger Moore era to make place for more humour, an ingredient that ironically helped Moore get accepted as Bond as fans wouldn’t have accepted anyone “trying to portray Bond like Connery”.

Going back to a Fleming short story, The Living Daylights (TLD), originally published in The Sunday Times Magazine in 1962 only provided enough material for a 20-minute sequence. Long time Bond scriptwriter Richard Maibaum once again joined forces with Cubby Broccoli’s nephew Michael G. Wilson. James Bond is introduced in a very intriguing and unfamiliar way as he takes part of a secret agent exercise mission that goes wrong: Bond finds a fellow member of the 00 section (004), murdered, holding a note “Smiert Spionem” (Death To Spies). Bond is sent to help Russian official Georgi Koskov (Jereon Krabbe) who wanted to defect ever since learning about his superior General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies)’s plan to kill enemy agents.

Bond investigates the sniper sent to kill Koskov during his defection, and later discovers that the “sniper” is none other than Koskov’s girlfriend Kara Milovy (Maryam D'Abo). While Koskov is kidnapped by KGB agent Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) Bond and the audience are thrown into a swerve, as Koskov’s defection and kidnapping are all arranged, Koskov is only trying to get his superior Pushkin murdered by 007, as Pushkin is getting closer to discovering that Koskov has been using KGB funds to purchase weapons from arms dealer Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker).

Bond, not knowing which one of the Russians is lying, is forced to make a choice. Who will he trust? In a brilliant scene, Bond fakes the assassination of Pushkin in front of Necros who returns to his boss with the information that Bond killed Pushkin! However, Kara who Bond had been using to get information didn’t understand the situation and contacted her boyfriend Koskov. The later convinces her to poison Bond. Escaping from a prison, Bond and Kara seek help from Afghan resistance leader Kamran Shah (Art Malik), leader of the Mujahadin. Bond, Kara and the Mujahadin attack Koskov’s plane, and Bond later terminates Brad Whitaker.

With The Living Daylights, it is clear that EON and director John Glen put a lot of focus in delivering a good script, a good plot, and a good storyline to the public instead of trying to deliver a movie based on action and gadgets. Nevertheless, some fantastic gadgets came out of the movie and will be remembered for a long time by Bond movie lovers, such as the beautiful Aston Martin Volante, and Bond’s exploding, stunning gas key chain. Bond fans also love the action in TLD. Some innovative and memorable scenes such as Bond and Kara’s escape riding the cello case, and Bond’s fight with Necros on the Russian cargo plane are fan favourites.

There is very little not to like in this movie. Fans are treated with the best of the best: a terrific performance by Timothy Dalton, who is back at being a rugged no-nonsense agent, a classic Bond girl in Kara Milovy, a good Bond ally in Kamran Shaw, a capable henchman in Necros, and a decent pair of villains in Pushkin and Whitaker. As if this wasn’t enough, John Barry delivered arguably his very best score. Some may argue that On Her Majesty’s Secret Service may be the best, but TLD’s score is almost as astounding if not surpassing it as best score for a Bond movie. A-Ha’s theme song for TLD is also a knockout! The Norwegian band successfully delivered a great pop rock theme song that brings the Bond sound well into the mid-80’s. The Q scene is also solid, as expected in every Bond movie. Some fans didn’t appreciate Caroline Bliss as Moneypenny as her portrayal was more humoristic and enamoured with Bond than the great Lois Maxwell. Although being a fact that her character has changed a little bit, Maxwell was simply too old for the part and any actress would receive some negative reviews. There really isn’t anything wrong with Bliss’ performance.

What’s left? Are there any negative points to this masterpiece? Well nothing is perfect, and in such a fantastic movie, the low points are very minor. One must look very hard to find anything other than brilliant! But here they are: Whitaker and Koskov didn’t seem evil enough. Not that all villain must be madmen, but it was sometimes almost difficult to believe that Koskov could order someone to be killed! Although clearly not an acting issue as Krabbe’s performance was fine, the script lacked a bit of darkness to his character. And to be extremely picky, the actors chosen for the roles of Linda (Kell Tyler) in the opening sequence and 002 (Glyn Baker) were poor choices. A more attractive actress could have portrayed Linda! And Glyn Baker’s reaction after being discovered by the enemy was just lame.

The Living Daylights is simply a Bond classic with the likes of Goldfinger (1964), Thunderball (1965), and From Russia With Love (1963). Although the earlier movies receive more praises, TLD will be remembered as a classic just as the earlier movies as times goes by.


"The Living Daylights" by Overkill

The first Bond film with a new Bond is always going to be a tricky affair. On one side the producers want to keep the fans happy, maintain momentum from the previous owner of the tux, but also it gives them an opportunity to breathe fresh life into the franchise. The Living Daylights manages to do both, effortlessly, and still manages to be, not just a top-drawer Bond movie, but a cracking action thriller in its own right.

And thriller, I think, is the key word here. The introduction of Timothy Dalton to the role brought about a long overdue overhaul of the character and an attempt to return to Bond’s cold war spy roots. Partly this was at the behest of Dalton himself, but also an attempt to bring the series back down to earth (again!) following the OTT fantasy of Octopussy and A View to a Kill.

The plot also pays homage both to Fleming’s characters, but is also vividly contemporary (to the point, unfortunately, may many of the political motivations in the plot would be obsolete only a few years later.)

Following the assassination of an MI6 agent during a training exercise in Gibraltar, and the defection of a top KGB agent, Koskov, the service are led to believe that General Pushkin, the new head of the KGB, has re-launched the long dormant ‘Smiert Spionem’ (SMERSH – Death to Spies) operation. Bond’s name is on the list, apparently. In response, Bond is ordered to assassinate Pushkin, but before he does Koskov is kidnapped and, seemingly, taken back behind the curtain. At the same time, Bond has been tracking down a sniper, ordered to kill Koskov at his defection, and is surprised to find that she is Koskov’s girlfriend.

It would take me all day to regale you with the rest of plot, as it is quite possibly the most complicated in the whole series. During the course of his mission, Bond uncovers double agents, betrayal, a megalomaniacal arms dealer (Whitaker), joins forces with the Mujahadin (who would a few years later morph into the dreaded Taliban) and faces one of the best henchmen of the whole series, the Grant-like Necros.

This emphasis on story over spectacle works enormously well, even if, at times, the plot seems to chase its own tail for a while. That’s not to say action is shoved aside. On the contrary it’s there in abundance: a gripping pre-credits sequence sees Bond tossed into action within seconds of appearing on-screen, hanging for dear life from the roof of a Land Rover as it careers around the narrow, Cliffside roads of Gibraltar. Later, a rather superfluous car chase includes a snazzy Aston Martin (“I’ve had a few optional extras installed” easily being the funniest line in the movie). And Bond and his Afghan friends destroy a Russian air base. Phew.

Dalton is, quite simply, superb. He is Bond, or at least Bond to any Fleming fans. Cold, ruthless, but heartfelt when necessary. Early in proceedings, he has several run ins with Saunders, an Austrian-based MI6 agent. Their icy relationship finally thaws before tragedy strikes. Dalton’s “Thanks” as Saunders leaves is a marvellous revelation that this Bond still has something resembling a heart. Speaking of which, for the first time since OHMSS, we get the impression that Bond actually cares for his leading lady. Admittedly Maryam D’Abo is gorgeous. And while her character does have a tendency to scream ‘James!’ a bit too often, this can be explained by the fact that she is only a cello player: she’s not a spy, she’s not a ‘female Bond’. She’s just a cello player, who’s boyfriend happens to be a duplicitous Russian spy. The cad. And who better to play a two-timing cad than Jerome Krabbe. Now, sadly typecast as a Hollywood villain, Krabbe had a wonderful filmography in European movies when cast in TLD. He gives a wonderful performance, disguising his nefarious schemes behind a façade of OTT friendship and joviality. Even at the film’s end when he’s been captured, he still tries to charm his way out of trouble.

Less successful, though not through any fault of his own, is Joe Don Baker as Whitaker. Unfortunately, the part is woefully underwritten, leaving his face off with Bond a real anti climax following the stunning fight on the cargo plane with Necros…
Oh, did I forget to mention that?

In a movie of great moments, the highlight is surely the cargo plane fight. Where Bond’s battle with Red Grant in FRWL was claustrophobic, violent, intense and with genuine menace, the fight here replaces all that with stunning camera work, amazing stunts, tension of an almost Hitchcockian level and puts it all together so well, that even that notoriously shoddy back projection work can’t spoil it.

I won’t explain the whole deal, but think about this: you’re hanging off a cargo net out the back of a plane; another man is trying to knock you off; the netting is slowing slipping from its tie; and there’s a bomb ticking away on the plane… oh and the pilot is about to crash into a mountain…

It’s all quite simply, marvellous. Entertaining enough for the casual viewer, intense an gritty for the Fleming hardcore. As the poster said “The New James Bond… Living on the Edge!” The Bond most thought they would never see again was back to his thrilling best.


"The Living Daylights" by DoubleDee

After 13 years with Roger Moore as James Bond, EON had to find a new actor for the licence to kill for The Living Daylights. Had it not been for the TV series Remington Steele, it probably would have been Pierce Brosnan, but unfortunately he was forced to fulfil his contract. Instead of him, the 41-year-old Welsh actor Timothy Dalton was given the part.

The Story:
In Bratislava Bond successfully helps Koskov (portrayed by Dutch actor Jeroen Krabbé) - a Russian agent - to defect. Koskov tips of the MI6, that snipers may have been assigned to prevent a possible defection. While Bond's mission includes the assassination of possible snipers, he spares the life of that agent, that later turns out to be Koskov's girlfriend Kara Milovy, played by Maryam d'Abo. This scene is actually based on the short story "The Living Daylights" written by Fleming. Back in England, Koskov hints the Secret Service to the KGB general Pushkin, who apparently has reinitiated the "Smiert Spionam"-program to eliminate enemy spies: A note with the same slogan was left close to an assassinated 004 in the previous pre-title sequence. Shortly after giving those leads, Koskov is being kidnapped again under the nose of the MI6. After these events, Bond is ordered to kill General Pushkin. Of course, he finds out, that there is more behind the Koskov accusations.

The Actors:
Dalton is fabulous as Bond. The whole franchise experienced a rejuvenation with a younger actor: Starting with the teaser sequence in which three Double-O agents, including Bond, are on a mission to test SAS security on Gibraltar, he chases the murderer of one of his colleagues. For the first time in years, Bonds face is actually visible in running scenes. Being a trained Shakespearian actor, Dalton also pulls off a very believable spy that can be both cruel and witty. Maryam d'Abo as the leading lady comes off vulnerable, but strong enough where it counts. The chemistry between her and Dalton is visible. For the first time in the history of the Bond movies, there are actually two main villains: Whitaker and Koskov. While Whitaker's (Joe Don Baker) is a little underwritten, Krabbé's portrayal of Koskov is believable.

The Music:
The Living Daylights marks John Barry's last work as a Bond composer. For the first time, he also backs a couple of scores with a drum computer beat that gives some action scenes a new touch. While the title song, performed by a-ha, is not undisputed, I think it was one of the best in the series. It has a great orchestration and makes uses of various instruments that give the song a rich sound.

All in all, the movie didn't have many drawbacks and neither made a lot of compromises: The Living Daylights had a thrilling story, good actors (first and foremost Tim Dalton in his first appearance as Bond), great stunts and an incredibly good score. For me it was the first Bond movie with a new actor I saw in the cinema. I wish, Dalton had played in AVTAK and had been given the chance to fill the gap between LTK and GE with 2-3 more movies.



"The Living Daylights" by NicNac

The most comprehensive overhaul of the Bond franchise since TSWLM rescued the flagging series in the mid 70s, occurred when Eon took a deep breath and finally replaced Roger Moore, and began to rough Bond up a little.
The days of a globe-hopping old man easing his way through preposterous plotlines were now over, and Bond needed to get at least half a grip on reality. Roger had done his job, rescued the series, but at nearly 60, he was over the hill, and yes, far away.

John Glen was back as director, John Barry returned for his last score (aided by flavour of the month pop group a-ha), and a script by Richard Maibaum and Michael Wilson was fashioned and expanded from Ian Fleming's short story The Living Daylights.

Timothy Dalton whose film acting career, so promising in his young days, had faltered dramatically, took a career saving decision to step in when first choice Pierce Brosnan was practically black mailed into returning to his TV show Remington Steele.

The plot involves Bond helping a defecting Russian General and killing a 'sniper' sent to assassinate him. It meanders from there, with a few twists and turns, but it never loses its way.

The Living Daylights opens in Gibraltar with a superbly choreographed teaser, as good as anything we had seen before (with the honourable exception of Goldfinger).
From there, the action is taut and exciting. The pulsating music drives it along, and in the 'kidnapping' of Koskov from the safe house, we have a small cinematic gem of a scene.

Bond's relationship with Kara is touching, and nicely played by the two leads. Their growing attraction is pleasing, and the romantic locations used enhance this.
Other characters include the villains Brad Whittaker (a pre-'Jack Wade', Joe Don Baker), and General Koskov (an hilarious turn by Joreon Krabbe).
Art Malik as the leader of the freedom fighters is appealing and probably deserved greater screen time.

Robert Brown and Desmond Llewellyn return as M and Q, but Lois Maxwell gracefully bows out as Moneypenny to be replaced by Caroline Bliss, who fails spectacularly to get any grip at all on the role. Half a point off.

Maryam d'Abo as Kara (set up by Koskov) shows the characters vulnerability in a brilliantly understated and sweet performance, and shows other actresses (yes you Tanya Roberts!) how to be vulnerable without being empty headed.

As for Dalton, he goes for a no-nonsense, muttering, stiff limbed Bond. A Bond who clearly despises his job, but knows that someone has to do it, and no body does it better than Bond. It's a slightly awkward premise, but suited to this actor. Unfortunately, the one-liners remain and Dalton’s slightly ham-fisted efforts at delivering them loses this film another half a point. It matters little however, as TLD crashes along at a fair old rate. It's funny, romantic, exciting and totally involving.

It was arguably the best Bond since OHMSS, and certainly no Bond film has come close to it since. And just check out the stunt work at the end as Bond and Red Grant clone Necros hang from the plane. Watch carefully Lee Tamahori!


"The Living Daylights" by Agent JM7

By the 1980's some members of the public thought to an extent that the James Bond franchise was getting tired and not suitable for the era. With Roger Moore’s eventual retirement following A View To A Kill, the producers go forth and find the 4th actor to play James Bond. Actors Sam Neill and Pierce Brosnan were considered amongst others. After a lengthy search and contractual issues, Timothy Dalton was the new James Bond.

Subsequently, the producers cast Maryam d'Abo as Kara Milovy and Jeroen Krabbe as Koskov, who plays a dastardly yet refined villain. These cast members set the tone for the film in which producers set to re-ignite the darker and Fleming type Bond.

The locations give a glamorous edge to the film, Gibraltar, Vienna and other locations for the Afghan desert fit into the characters persona brilliantly; never ceasing to grasp attention from the viewers at the scale that the filmmakers produce. Although maybe not as classically 'exotic' or 'tropical' as some previous films, the locations play a vital role in achieving the 'realistic' approach.

However, there are the less perfect aspects. Caroline Bliss' Moneypenny is not quite so popular after the long reigning Lois Maxwell. And the script in places lacks a strong sense of drama.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that it was John Barry's final scoring of a Bond film. He succeeds in providing a classic yet mixed score to blend in with modern settings, and suits the film very well. Barry has since been strongly missed by Bond fans, and his work remains very popular and often praised for composing the 'Original' Bond scores.

The Living Daylights binds together the classic ingredients of a Bond film: Espionage, Romance, Action, and, of course, a diabolical threat to the world! The film was a huge success, and sets Timothy Dalton as a beloved Bond, and the film a classic, harking back to the early Connery Bonds, and a contrast to the 'comedic' films of the later Roger Moore period.


"The Living Daylights" by Tubes

After Roger Moore left the role of Bond due to age, the search was on for who would follow him. After much searching and even a little controversy, Timothy Dalton was selected. That has to rank with hiring Connery as one of the best decisions EON has ever made.

Bluntly put, Dalton's detailed performance turns this already good movie into an excellent one. He really gives Bond a human aspect that was lacking since OHMSS. His performance here ranks as one of the best by any Bond.

The supporting cast isn't too shabby either. Maryam d'Abo delivers a decent performance, although her part isn't much more than her playing the cello, smiling, and saying James a lot. It should be noted that Dalton and her have excellent chemistry onscreen and make Bond and Kara's relationship very believable.

The two villains, Koskov and Whittaker, aren’t all that evil per say. They don't have memorable moments like Goldfinger and Blofeld, but they do just fine regardless. Krabbe plays Koskov with believable sliminess and it comes as no surprise that he double-crosses Kara later on. Jon Don Baker, however, does much better in his role of Jack Wade in GoldenEye than here. One real bright spot as far as villains go is Necros. He's real menacing and the first henchman since Red Grant to do so without a gimmick of some sort.

The film really does well with allies. Pushkin is excellent, as is Shah. Both actors play there roles with genuine friendliness with a bit of hidden malice underneath, which makes their characters much more detailed that it could have been.

What is surprising is that, despite the fact that the film plays out more as a cold war thriller, it still has enough action to thrill moviegoers today. The set pieces are excellent and do not get in the way with the story, as they do with other blockbusters. The film goes on at a rapid pace, keeping you thrilled as the story unfolds.

The Living Daylights is John Barry's last Bond score. This is also one of his best film scores. He enhances the car chase scene to such a degree that without the music, it wouldn't really be the same. Yet, when the music would get in the way Barry steps back and lets the background sounds take the forefront. This is typical of him and something that would be missed in the David Arnold must-score-entire-picture years.