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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20%
Average: 13.33%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 39 user ratings

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Living Daylights, The
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by MP Bartley

"The One With The Cello"
5 stars

With every new Bond there's a change in direction too. When Lazenby replaced Connery, out went toughness in place of romance. When Moore replaced Lazenby and Connery out went intelligence and in came spoofy gags. And when Dalton replaced Moore, out went camp and in came a tough cynicism. A welcome change and one that resulted in the last, truly great Bond film.

After an intriguing pre-credits sequence that sets the plot up nicely, ends with a great stunt and introduces Dalton in a superb manner (three 00 agents parachute onto the rock of Gibraltar. One by one they're killed until we're left with our first reveal of Bond), we have A Ha's cracking 80's pop tune. Already we have a clear indication that this is a Bond with fresh legs and a new spirit to it.

The spies killed on Gibraltar have been targeted under the 'Smert Spyoneum' plot ('Death to Spies'). It's an old Russian plot which has been resurrected by General Pushkin (John Rhys-Davies). The British know this because Bond has helped another Russian, General Koskov (Jeroem Krabbe) defect to them. However the KGB snatch Koskov back and M orders Bond to take Pushkin out. Bond smells a rat however and tracks down the would be assassin of Koskov, Kara Milovy (Maryam D'Abo) a cello player in the Czech orchestra who Bond wounded the night of Koskov's defection. And hovering in the background is the arms dealer General Brad Whitaker (Joe Don Baker).

It's clear then that 'The Living Daylights' is a huge step from the simplistic 'something's going to explode!' plots of most Moore films. It's the most complex Bond film since 'From Russia With Love' as you have to keep track of who's double-crossing who and who is working for who. It's a massive refreshment however for a Bond film to treat its audience with intelligence and demand that they pay attention. The final machinations of the plot aren't even revealed until the final 30 minutes of the film. It's positively Connery-esque in its serious tone and sweeping canvas of Prague to Tangiers to Afghanistan and it's by far the most close in tone to the books of all the Bond films. Fleming would have been very proud. There's a strong political edge to it too, as it deals with the American support for the Afhgan rebels against the Russians.

For those who were devoted to Moore, the relative lack of action may put them off, but those who love their Bonds to be wrapped up with intrigue and twists will be sucked into it. That's not to say 'The Living Daylights' is free from action however. There's a car/cello chase across a frozen lake that's up there with the best and the climactic battle on a Russian airbase in Afghantistan is perhaps the most ambitious extended action sequence the Bond series had yet attempted. Indeed, 'The Living Daylights' is one of the best Bond films to showcase the stunning stunt work throughout the series. When Bond and henchman Necros (Andreas Wisniewski) are hanging on a net, dangling out of the back of a plane, what makes it stunning is that there's no CGI or trick photography involved. Parachutes or not, these guys really are hanging out of the back of a plane in midflight. It's a perfect combination of awesome stunts and intelligent plotting.

Dalton however manages something that none of his forebearers had managed - to instantly stamp himself onto the part. There's no uneasy feeling of watching a new actor in the part and thinking "Hmm, is this guy really Bond?", by the end of the pre-credits you're instantly convinced he is the part. Even Connery needed a couple of films to settle himself into the part.

And while Connery may be the best cinematic Bond, there's no doubt that Dalton was the Bond closest to Flemings books. Gone is the juvenile flippancy of Moore, and back is the cold, blunt instrument of killing. Whereas Moore just let things happen around him, Dalton really acts in the part. There's a scene where a friend of Bonds is killed and Dalton shows us his face twisting in rage and icy fury before racing to catch the killer. He's lean, ruthless and dangerous in the part and no-one since Connery has looked as hard or as intelligent as Bond. Detractors of Dalton claim that he was too serious in the part, but look again and you can see the humour there. He just doesn't over-sell it or make it obvious like Moore did, he's much more subtle. Bond is finally made human again. His intelligent and serious approach is ideal to the film itself and he's matched by other excellent performances.

Llewelyn is back on form as Q and Brown gets his best performance as M. Caroline Bliss however is a poor Miss Moneypenny and comes nowhere near to Maxwell's performance. Likewise, John Terry as Felix doesn't get enough to do in the part.
D'Abo however, is the best Bond girl in a very long time. Not overly sexy, she has a much more natural beauty and is a very capable character in her own right. No simpering bimbo or screaming drama queen here, she's probably the best Bond girl since Tracy. The one drawback that 'The Living Daylights' has however is it's lacking in the villain department. Necros is a great henchmen, but has little dialogue. Pushkin and Koskov are just soldiers and the real villain, Whitaker, is in the background too long to make a proper impact.

Nevertheless the intrigue of the plot is enough to cover up for this deficiency. When you're not exactly sure where the plot is taking you do you really need a hissing uber-villain anyway?

'The Living Daylights' is sofar the last Bond film to capture the feel of Flemings novels so exactly. It's a true shame that the mixture of espionage and action has never been entwined again to such good effect. In a way Dalton is the most over-looked of all the Bonds (even Lazenby is more remembered because he only did one and was the first after Connery), but this is a shame because Dalton has a strong case for best Bond ever. Underrated, undervalued and under-appreciated 'The Living Daylights' is the last Bond film that can genuinely lay claim to the title 'classic'.

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originally posted: 08/11/04 00:31:09
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User Comments

9/09/19 Karen_S gritty new direction for Bond -- terrific film 5 stars
10/10/14 David M. Thank you for being intelligent enough to see the greatness of this movie (and OHMSS). 5 stars
2/14/14 MatthewThompsonDalldorf Best Bond? Might be. 5 stars
8/30/09 Jeff Wilder Good acting by Dalton and a good story. But the villains are weak. 4 stars
7/21/07 Sugarfoot Dalton was easily a strong James Bond, but this had little motivation in the story. 3 stars
1/07/07 JM Synth Dalton and Glen are both very underrated 4 stars
10/07/06 ProSneakyD Dalton brings a more serious bond to the series, the most exciting bond film of the 80's. 5 stars
5/18/06 Uk_shooter very good bond movie dalton is a great bond!!! 5 stars
5/18/06 Yorkee Dalton wasn't really any better than Moore. The WORST Russian accents!! 3 stars
1/03/06 Anthony Feor great movie 4 stars
11/20/05 chris there should be a rating above awesome for this movie and dalton rocks!! 5 stars
8/14/05 mike liked dalton , not the plot 4 stars
5/27/05 tony great film for daltons first. EXELLENT PLOT AND SCENES! plot sometimes fooled me 5 stars
3/24/05 indrid cold The great underrated Bond film, surprisingly complex and exciting. 4 stars
8/24/04 Damien ristori My second fav 007 film shame Whitaker did'nt have more scenes he was a good villain. 5 stars
8/17/04 Herolder Best Bond movie since "Live and let die" 5 stars
12/27/03 earl hofert better than a lot of people give it credit for 5 stars
12/18/03 R.W. Welch Rambling episode has a couple good bits but mostly standard stuff. 3 stars
11/29/03 john it'd have been a pretty good Bond movie if they had found the right Bond 3 stars
11/01/03 Valerie Cameron Not at all bad - could almost make you think Timothy Dalton put his heart into playing Bond 4 stars
10/11/03 JimmyC Exploding Milk bottles!!! 5 stars
7/06/03 Paul S. Magic moments: Kara, `he met his waterloo`, sniper scene (str8 out of the book), cello-ski 5 stars
5/16/03 Andrew Carden Overblown and Confusing Bond Outing; Dalton Is OK, but Not Good Enough. 2 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby The worst Bond entry since "Moonraker". Dalton, lighten up, pal! 2 stars
3/15/03 TAG Nobody captured the true spirit of Bond better than Dalton! 5 stars
1/14/03 alien assassin the best Bond film of the 1980's (apart from "For your eyes only") 4 stars
11/28/02 Charles Tatum Geez, Dalton, this ain't Shakespeare...have some fun! 2 stars
9/17/02 CVJ Dalton is crap as bond PERIOD 2 stars
2/15/02 Zargo nothing wrong with dalton, i liked moore, but he was so predictable, dalton's not 5 stars
8/07/01 Mr. Hat (formerly Joe Zappa) Dark photography, though enjoyable. 4 stars
6/04/01 keith langman dalton is horrible as bond 3 stars
8/17/00 Matthew Bartley One of the best Bond films ever 5 stars
4/12/00 Gremlin Best Dalton movie. Too bad Dalton sucks as Bond. 5 stars
3/12/99 Claude Derralt Good Love Story 5 stars
12/28/98 Lucy B. Terrific!! Dalton adds a really personal touch which finally gives a soul the character. 5 stars
10/28/98 Silent Rob An average Bond film, but refreshing to see Moore out of the picture!!!! 3 stars
10/25/98 zeki very fine bond-film.Great job by Dalton 5 stars
10/02/98 Paul One of the best bond's ever. 4 stars
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  31-Jul-1987 (PG)



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